China village rights in focus as new land grab sparks protest

Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:45am GMT

(Reuters) - Around 1,000 villagers denouncing a suspected land grab protested outside a government building in southern China while a new local leader called for protection of farmers' rights, newspapers reported on Wednesday.

The villagers, some carrying red and green banners denouncing corrupt officials, gathered outside the Guangzhou city government building on Tuesday, the South China Morning Post said.

They demanded compensation for land they said was seized by the Communist Party Secretary in Wanggang village and accused him of pocketing the equivalent of more than $63 million.

Wanggang lies within the economic powerhouse of Guangdong, where a tenacious months-long standoff in another village, Wukan, over land grabs made global headlines and prompted concessions from senior officials.

Party leaders, whose number one priority is maintaining social stability, are paying close attention to complaints and flare-ups.

As the protesters voiced their grievances, Zhu Xiaodan, Guangdong's newly appointed governor, said the biggest challenge facing his region was "the surfacing" of social tensions.

"Farmers' land rights are not protected by the rule of law, and can lead to conflict," the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po quoted Zhu Xiaodan as telling reporters at a provincial assembly in Guangzhou.

He called for legal steps to entrench farmers' rights and for stronger mechanisms to ease social tension.

Land disputes do not directly threaten Communist Party rule,   Continued...

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