[Marxism] Socialism with "Chinese Characteristics" Marches Forward

M. Junaid Alam alam at lefthook.org
Mon Jan 16 15:57:03 MST 2006

January 16, 2006

  Girl, 13, Dies as Police Battle Chinese Villagers


SHANGHAI, Jan. 16 - A week of protests by villagers in China's 
southern industrial heartland exploded into violence over the weekend 
with thousands of police officers brandishing automatic weapons and 
using electric batons to put down the rally , residents of the village 
said today.

As many as 60 people were injured, residents of Panlong village said, 
and at least one person, a 13-year-old girl, had been killed by security 
forces, they said. The police denied any responsibility, saying that the 
girl had died of a heart attack.

Residents of Panlong, about an hour's drive from the capital of 
Guangdong Province, said the police had chased and beaten protesters and 
bystanders alike, and that locals had retaliated by smashing police cars 
and mounting hit-and-run attacks, throwing rocks at security forces.

The clash with villagers in Panlong marked the second time in a month 
that large numbers of Chinese security forces, including paramilitary 
troops, were deployed to put down a local demonstration.

The protests coincided with a visit to the area by the North Korean 
president, Kim Il Jong. The secretive Korean leader's visit, though 
never publicly confirmed by Beijing, is a poorly kept secret, and some 
residents said his presence in the region over the weekend may have 
contributed to the nervousness of the security forces. Like thousands of 
other demonstrations roiling rural China, it involved land use and 
environmental issues.

"The police arrived at 8 p.m., and then started beating people from 9 
p.m., trying to disperse the crowd," said a schoolteacher who spoke by 
telephone, giving her name only as Yang. "When this happened, the crowd 
got very angry and lots of people picked up stones on the ground and 
threw them at the policemen. After being attacked, policemen were 
furious, they just beat up everyone, using their batons."

The schoolteacher was talking about Saturday night, which was the sixth 
day of protests in the area. Villagers said the demonstrations had begun 
as silent sit-ins, but grew more boisterous by the day, as more and more 
locals joined in. Eventually, they said, as many as 10,000 police 
officers were deployed, roughly twice the number of protesters at the 
peak of the demonstrations.

In a December protest in the nearby town of Dongzhou, residents say as 
many as 30 people were killed when security forces opened fire on crowds 
of villagers massed in demonstration against the construction of a 
coal-fired power plant in their midst. Provincial authorities have 
acknowledged three deaths, but blamed the villagers for attacking the 
police. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have restricted access to the 
village and have apparently ordered the media to sharply limit their 
coverage of the incident.

Unlike the events at Dongzhou, an out-of-the-way fishing village, the 
latest confrontation between villagers and a large-scale deployment of 
security forces has occurred in a rural enclave encircled by some of 
China's biggest and fastest growing industrial cities.

Indeed, demonstrating residents of Panlong village said their anger had 
been sparked by a government land acquisition program they had been led 
to believe in 2003 was part of a construction project to build a 
superhighway connecting the nearby city of Zhuhai with Beijing. Later, 
the villagers learned the land was being re-sold to developers to set up 
special chemical and garment industrial zones in the area.

The region that immediately surrounds Panlong village is among the most 
heavily industrialized land anywhere, and was the laboratory and 
launching pad for the economic changes put in place by Deng Xiaoping. 
These revolutionary changes revived the country and turned it, in the 
space of a generation, into a global economic powerhouse.

Panlong village is a short drive from Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhuhai - 
all large and booming cities virtually created from scratch. It is also 
close to Guangzhou, the provincial capital, and to Hong Kong, whose 
investments helped fuel the area's takeoff. The region is not only the 
scene of some of China's fastest growing industries, including high-tech 
manufacturing, textiles and furniture - much of which is exported to the 
United States - it is also the scene of some of the country's worst 

For most of the year visibility over the scrubland plains is so poor 
that beyond a few hundred yards all detail is lost behind a thick gray 
curtain of eye-stinging haze. Water supplies in the area are equally 
imperiled by the pollution. The situation has become so bad that even 
residents of Hong Kong, whose economy is dependent upon the adjacent 
region's growth, rue the environmental monster they have helped create.

Increasingly, their ambivalence is shared by rural dwellers in the area, 
some of the first people to benefit from the opening up of the country 
to foreign and private investment, which began in special economic zones 
in nearby areas in Guangdong as part of China's sweeping economic reforms.

"We have many special zones in this area, and each of them attracts 
investment," said a villager who was interviewed by telephone and gave 
his name as Hou. "The economic deals set in the past were not favorable, 
and many zones here have had smaller protests before, but the people 
were not united."

"Now," he added, "there are uprisings everywhere."

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