The world got a rare glimpse of the deadly, mostly unseen war
between Chinese developers and the poor who stand in their way with the
release of a harrowing video showing a murderous attack on villagers
protesting against the construction of a power plant.
Chinese state media says 10 people were killed, some of them
elderly, when hundreds of camouflaged men in hard-hats and armed with
knives, guns and iron bars carried out a terrifying dawn raid last
Saturday on about 300 people in a shantytown in Shengyou, in China's
One man told The Beijing News the attackers "rushed into the shacks
and started pounding and chopping". Niu Chengluan, who suffered broken
bones, told The South China Morning Post from his hospital bed: "Four
people used iron bars with knives to beat me. They [tried to] beat me
to death." The attackers concentrated on the men, but several women
were hurt, including Huang Jinfeng, who said the men "attacked everyone
The villagers, who had fought off an assault in April and captured
one of the attackers, Zhu Xiaorui, reportedly retaliated with farm
tools, but by the time police were called an hour later, six were dead
and nearly 50 injured; four more have since died. The survivors are
refusing to surrender their captured attacker, Mr Zhu, a Beijing club
bouncer who was paid 100 Yuan (£6.60) for his day's work.
The villagers refused a compensation offer last July from Hebei
Guohua Power, which wants to build a power plant on the 62 acre
(25-hectare) site. Chinese internet bulletin-boards say the company had
successfully negotiated with 12 other villages and was so frustrated by
lack of progress with the final holdout that it filled five buses with
hired thugs to clear the shantytown.
Local media were barred from covering the attack, but the story was
picked up by media outlets in China's far south and a video recorded by
a villager was handed to The Washington Post, forcing the government to
act. The local party chief and the mayor have been sacked, and police
are negotiating for Mr Zhu's release.
The video's release around the world brings more unwelcome attention
for Beijing on the enormous social tensions created by China's
explosive economic growth, which has brought riches for some but
hardship and rising anger for millions of others. The right to organise
is strictly curtailed, but unofficial strikes and demonstrations have
grown rapidly in the past decade, along with attacks on government
building and officials.
One government report said 3.1 million people took part in protests
in just one month last year. Economic growth has also led to intense
competition between land-hungry developers, who often clash brutally
with the 140 million migrant workers in their march to progress. In
October, 50,000 migrants rioted in Wangzhou city, in Sichuan province,
after being forcibly cleared from their land to make way for the
planet's largest construction project, the Three Gorges Dam on the
"The scale of the violence in this latest attack is unusual but the
fundamental issue over land, especially in the suburbs, and the
dynamics of land theft is not," said Professor Mark Selden, who has
written numerous books about China. "It is one of the big unreported
stories of our time."
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