New construction leaves 200 villagers in the cold

Source:Global Times Published: 2009-11-27 3:11:59

By Zhang Lei

More than 200 villagers had to sleep in the cold after they were forced out of their homes to make way for a new development in Panyu, a district in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

"We slept on the lawn and spent the night in the cold Thursday," Guo Peiji, one of the villagers told the Global Times Thursday on telephone, adding that newly built tents were also confiscated.

Guo and others said that thousands of law enforcement officers, including police, drove them away by claiming that they illegally put up shelters on land expropriated for a public project.

Dozens of villagers climbed on the roof of a school building at a nearby college and threatened to kill themselves, Guo said.

"We didn't do anything aggressive, only wanted to raise our concerns with the media," he said.

The dispute started seven years ago over a relocation program. The homes of 1,500 villagers were demolished to make way for the construction of Guangzhou University City, an area with 10 universities, located in the Xiaoguwei Island.

Over 200 villagers from Xiaoguwei Island left their ancestral houses and moved to new apartments, according to a report by Nanfang Daily in 2003.

"Villagers enjoyed the highest compensation according to land compensation standards. Each family got up to 276,600 yuan ($40,500) on average," the report said.

Guo said about 1,000 villagers moved to a nearby town and the rest refused to move away because the deal over the relocation was "illegal."

The relocation program was illegal and the program needed further approval, Chang Jiaxing, then a vice director of the Ministry of Land and Resources, told the Market News, a newspaper hosted by the People's Daily, in late 2003.


However, local authorities mobilized more than 1,000 people including police and firefighters and finished the demolition in December 2003, according to the Economy Observer.

The local police, the village authority and Panyu district government could not be reached for comment.

Tang Xingling, a lawyer from Guangzhou, who followed the case for years, said the villagers declined to move away because their private properties were demolished without their approval.

"Villagers demanded to rebuild their home at the original site, but the government only offered them new homes, didn't mention anything about job or increasing compensation," he said.

Guo Peiji, a former vegetable farmer, is now picking up trash and driving a motorized taxi to earn a living because he turned down the government-initiated compensation.

"We are homeless, jobless and haven't taken a penny from the government," he said.

Disputes between local authorities and residents are not rare. Several cases have made headlines over the last few years involving stubborn residents who refused to move to win higher compensation.

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