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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Oh the cover-ups continue

Sometimes I am stunned at how progressive China is begging to become - other times I am stunned at how completely barbaric they still are. Living in China is very interesting. You get to see an economy steaming ahead, more freedoms, Internet use and growth, etc. However, living in Hong Kong, you also get to hear about the economy leaving behind so many in rural China, land being taken away, major Internet censorship, etc.

Yesterday I read an article in the South China Morning Post that was very disturbing. Coming from a country with free press it is always disquieting to hear about the government blatantly covering up issues – yes, it happens everywhere but not like this. Is China really becoming more progressive, or is only Shanghai and Hong Kong? I guess time will tell - but actions like this are not encouraging...
The family of a 15-year-old Zhongshan schoolgirl beaten to death on Saturday during a clash over land disputes is believed to have received 130,000 yuan to say their daughter died after a heart attack, villagers said yesterday.

An aunt of second-year middle school student Feng Meiying said the girl's body was cremated yesterday, but declined to say if she had been killed by police.

"My niece did not come to the highway [demonstration scene] on Saturday night because it is far from our home. She died of heart trouble," the aunt said.

Meiying's father hung up the phone when the South China Morning Post asked whether his daughter was beaten to death.

Residents of Sinfeng village, Sanjiao township, where the Feng family lives, said the family had received 130,000 yuan from the local government. "I believe they are lying," a villager said.

Another villager said Meiying was seen throwing rocks at police during the protest. One resident said he saw Meiying beaten unconscious after being dragged from underneath a police car.

"More than 200 pairs of eyes witnessed the girl being beaten," he said, adding that police attacked everyone they came across.

Officials from various levels of the Zhongshan government contacted yesterday denied Meiying died during the clash.

A Zhongshan municipal propaganda department spokesman said the girl's death was a rumour. "I hope you will not be misled by it," he said. Another spokesman for the Sanjiao township government said police never used force to disperse villagers.

A township government official confirmed Meiying's death, but said it was not related to the clash as the girl died on Friday, a day before Saturday's clashes.

An employee of the Hong Kong textile company which bought the land from the township government said it had no knowledge of the land dispute.

Nearly 1,000 villagers staged a sit-in outside government offices and blocked traffic on Saturday near the provincial expressway connecting Guangdong with Beijing. It was the latest chapter in a 12-year battle to obtain reasonable compensation for land taken by local governments for industrial development.

No villagers were at the scene of the demonstration last night, with the area under tight surveillance as police cars patrolled from one village to another.

The Zhongshan Daily yesterday reported more than 300 armed police had been sent to the scene to disperse thousands of protesters and onlookers on the highway. It said no one died in the incident, but two police officers were injured when the villagers threw firecrackers.

A woman from Heping village said they blocked the highway to attract media attention because there were seven villages involved in the land disputes.

"We are fighting for later generations because the township government sold our land to a Hong Kong-owned textile factory for 50 years," she said.

The resident said about 12 hectares in her village had been requisitioned by the government. Officials promised to pay them 180,000 yuan for one hectare three years ago.

"They paid us 600 to 700 yuan a year in rent three years ago, but not a cent after that," she said, adding that officials even refused to let them see the land contracts with the Hong Kong company.

She said villagers suspected public funds had been embezzled by the township government. "We have to fight for justice at any cost."

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