Thousands of residents of Renhuai, southwestern China's Guizhou Province took to the streets on Friday and Saturday to protest inadequate compensation offered to farmers after the local government expropriated their land to make way for an industrial park that will turn the city into "the Liquor Capital of China."
The local government in Renhuai, which is home to one of China's top liquor brands Moutai, announced on Sunday that the dispute had been settled on Saturday after meetings with the farmers. No one was injured during the protests, said the local government.
According to a press release posted on the local government's official website, the mass gathering was incited by a dozen farmers, and government offices and vehicles were damaged by the crowd that had gathered.
Witnesses, however, said around 7,000 people gathered in front of the government building of Tanchang town in Renhuai, and thousands of armed police were dispatched in the city.
Calls to the government office went unanswered as of press time.
Farmers said they want out of the deal and their land returned as they now feel new rules will exclude them from promises of employment at the new industrial park.
"We want to get our land back. We've lost our land and now we can't feed ourselves," Xu Xiaohai, a 43-year-old farmer, told the Global Times. He said the government paid 150,000 yuan ($23,563) for 0.33 hectares of Xu's family farmland.
The local government announced recently that it would charge each farmer more than 10,000 yuan for an application fee and a 6,000 yuan training fee for those seeking a job at the new industrial park, said Xu.
According to the Guizhou Daily, the local government had promised farmers who gave up their land they would be given jobs at the new plants that are designed to quadruple the city's liquor output.
Chen Guiliang, a 77-year-old farmer, complained to the Global Times that he couldn't afford to let his son and son-in-law apply for a job at the industrial park with the compensation he received for giving up his land.
"In the pursuit of economic growth, the local government should protect the interests of farmers who lost their land and give them proper compensation and resettlement," Zhang Yuanhong, a researcher with the Institute of the Rural Development under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Zhang said the local government should put higher value on the importance of farmers' bread-and-butter issues such as employment, pensions and health care.
The city of Renhuai administers Maotai town, the birthplace of Moutai, the expensive iconic Chinese liquor that is often served at state banquets.