Batons, Beating and Tears
A Report on Suppression of Protest at Panlong Village in Zhong Shan

By William Foreman

It was reported that in early last year in Panlong Village of Zhongshan of the Guangdong Province, the local police threw tear gas bombs at villagers protesting against their land being taken away for estate development without appropriate compensation and other forms of settlements. Their resistance had invited hundred of police officers with heavy fearful weapons though no tanks had been driven in except that a platoon of police officers with electronic batons and tear gas bombs to subdue them. The police officers threw tear gas and beat people with electric batons to break up the protests and rally of people: many villagers were driven like pigs and chickens. The scene was chaotic and many villagers were with bleeding faces, broken arms or legs lying on the fields.

According to the villagers on site, the police officers just threw tear gas bombs and invaded into the protest groups with their electric batons in hands beating the people without caring that the protesters were mainly old men and old women without real threats to the orderliness of the site. The villagers described that just a few minutes after the police attack, there were no people standing on the site because all of them were lying there ˇV bleeding and groaning on grounds. ˇ§It is a cruel scene, comparable only to the Tian An Mun Square incident in 1989, a villager had made such a descriptive remark.

In any event, the police force was successful in quelling the protest with a report that more than 30 villagers having taken to the hospitals by ambulances. A spokesman of the Sanjiao township People's Hospital confirmed that quite a number of injured persons admitted to the hospital for treatment were reported to be the villagers of Panlong villagers. However, he said that most the patients receiving treatment by the hospital were not seriously injured, and most of them were discharged after treatment.

In response to the reportersˇ¦ enquiries, a spokeswoman of the Zhongshan city police confirmed that a chain of protests started on Wednesday, and said that the police had successfully quelled the protests with minimum force. She admitted that there were a number of villagers having arms, legs or some other bones broken but she refused to tell the number of injured villagers, and decline to elaborate on the scale of the protest and rally of people.

"Yes, it happened. But we are not sure about the number of people involved," she simply said. Various accounts from villagers put the number of protestors between 1,000 and 3,000 during the last week's protests, and numbers had dwindled after police armed with batons beating people. One source of information told that initially there were only one hundred something rallied in the square at the front of the Township Government Office, but after 2 days more villagers joined the rally and later the villagers started the protest held on the Nansan motorway beginning Wednesday and on Saturday, police decided to use force to disperse the crowd, the villagers said.

According to the villagers, they started the sit-in protest outside the Sanjiao township government office because the local Government had helped the developers to take away their cultivation lots without giving them adequate compensation. Many villagers complained that their pieces of farmland were forcibly taken away from them, but neither the developers nor the Government officials had made any arrangement for giving them decent amount of compensations for resettlement. They pleaded that apart from giving them the monetary compensation, the government had to help them find some other agricultural lots to continue their cultivation activities, or alternatively find them some other jobs to do for living of the rest of their lives. When their pleas went unanswered, they staged a sit-down protest on the motorway.

Furiously, a villager told the reporter, "The land are ours for cultivation for decades, they took away from us without sufficiently paying the compensation, so it was reasonable for us to take them back." "Villagers are very angry. We have hardly enough to live on and the local officials have millions in their own accounts," said another villager.

Villagers grumbled that the local government beginning mid-80s had started selling their farmland to the estate developers for huge sum of money but the villagers had only been given 400 to 700 yuan each person per year as compensatory rent. They said they had put up with it for years but the money was not enough to live on. "How can we live on with that in this day and age?" the villager asked. "We are only farmers without other skills, we cannot find proper jobs. We have always obeyed the government as a citizen in the local society. We know it is our duty to obey the government, but things are just getting ridiculous," he said. "What choice do we have now?"

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The protests and police suppression in Panlong village would not be an isolated case as since 2002, more than hundred protests and the like incidents have been reported. Perhaps, even the reported hundred cases are still cases of a tip of iceberg, there might be more unrest and grievances not yet exploded. Perhaps, the Provincial Government has to do something remedying the situations before it is too late.