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Villagers burn 4 people to death in row over land

Shanghai Daily, October 17, 2014 Adjust font size:

Villagers in a bitter standoff with a property developer in southwestern China detained several construction workers and burned four of them to death in a clash that left eight people dead, authorities said yesterday.

The incident in Yunnan Province was one of the most violent land conflicts in recent years, casting a spotlight on the plight and anger of rural residents who see their livelihoods threatened when their lands are seized by developers.

Often, villagers have resorted to violence in defending their rights, making land disputes a chief cause of unrest in China.

The latest dispute in the village of Fuyou in Jinning County was over land compensation. Villagers complained about low payments for land seized for a warehouse and logistics center, a major project reportedly backed by the local government.

In a written statement, the Kunming government made no reference to its role, but said the standoff between villagers and the developer had delayed the project since May.

Villagers detained eight construction workers on Tuesday when the developer attempted to restart work on the site, the statement said. Locals then bound the workers’ hands and feet, beat them up and poured gasoline on them before throwing them onto a road near the construction site.

Villagers wielding improvised weapons later stormed the site and clashed violently with hired hands, the statement said, although other media reports said the hired hands started the fray that killed two villagers.

The government said that during the scuffle villagers tossed homemade bombs and set fire to the gasoline-drenched detainees. Four workers burned to death and two others died from unspecified injuries, it said.

The violence hasn’t been unconditionally condemned, with at least one newspaper questioning what led to the conflict.

“It shows the local government has not made effective efforts to resolve the conflict,” said a Beijing Times editorial, adding that villagers had lost fertile lands that once provided them with handsome profits.

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