Six Held in Gansu Clashes Over Mines Railway

Authorities in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu are holding six people following clashes between evictees and police amid an ongoing row over the construction of a new railway line, local residents said on Wednesday.

A number of protesters were injured in Tuesday's clashes, and detentions were continuing, a representative of evictees from Shiling village in Gansu's Tianshui city said.

"There are still six or seven people in hospital, and there are still six in the detention center," he said. "They are still detaining people today."

He said local people had come out in anger amid allegations that county-level authorities had secretly altered land-use designations and told residents that they planned to build a farmers' market in the area, a claim which won some support among local people at first.

But then the authorities had begun evicting local residents to break ground on the Tianping railway which will link Tianshui to the mining district of Pingliang, he added.

He added: "They began work illegally, which we didn't agree with, but they just said: 'We're the government. We have the right to do this.' That was the county-level Communist Party secretary."

He said around 200 police had clashed with villagers on Tuesday, but that they hadn't worn identity cards or identification numbers on their uniforms.

"That means they just hired some guys and put uniforms on them," he said.

Widespread anger

Local sources said the local authorities had engaged in a widespread program of land-grabs, forced demolitions, and evictions to make way for the railway, sparking widespread anger among local people.

Villagers said that the government had taken around 120 mu (eight hectares) of farmland from them for the railway project.

Officials had offered to build apartment blocks to house evictees, but the community had rejected this because they would have no livelihood left, the Shiling representative said.

A resident of nearby Jutou village surnamed Zhang gave a similar account.

"Some people from the ... government came over because of the eviction issue in Shiling village," Zhang said.

"They hired people from outside to beat people up and yell at them."

"They resisted, because they felt they were being unfairly treated, and it seems that some of them were injured. It wasn't as simple as we'd thought it would be."

She added: "They can have their development, but it's always the farmers who have to put up with the misery in the end."

'Ideological work'

An official who answered the phone at the Shetang township government, which administers Shiling village, said the villagers' version of events wasn't to be trusted.

"It's not as serious as you are making it out to be," the official said. "That's what the villagers are saying, but you shouldn't only listen to one side of the story."

"Officials have been carrying out ideological work with people in that village and in neighboring villages, and we have been working pretty hard at it," the official said.

"The villagers don't understand, but it's not convenient for me to say anything more to you."

The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year

Many result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.