Chinese Farmers Protest for Land, Election Rights

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More than a hundred farmers in central Henan Province protested over the weekend. It's the latest in a series of demonstrations by a public that's becoming more aware of their civil rights. This most recent demonstration is over a long-standing land dispute, and to call for a proper election process the law supposedly provides.

They want their land, and they want transparent elections. That was the message of dozens of farmers on Saturday, as they marched in front of the Guolutan Township government building in Gushi County of central Henan Province.

The locals here have been battling authorities for more than a decade over misappropriated land. Since the 1980s, residents say the township government acquired more than 23 acres of land for public projects. But instead, a quarter of the land has been sold, with local officials pocketing the money.

[Xu Jiale, Local Resident]:
"The government illegally sells our land, and now we want the land back, that's the right thing to do, right? The land is ours, and is our livelihood. Without land, farmers can't survive."

Locals say the main reason behind the long-standing dispute is because authorities have refused to address it. Although the Chinese regime allows for periodic elections of low-level officials, the process is heavily controlled, with no real participation by the public. Now residents want change.

During the march on Saturday, farmers held up banners reading, "Give me back my land" and "Give me back my right to vote". They want officials here to make the once-in-five-year local people's congress election transparent. Otherwise, they'll launch a ten thousand people joint referendum, to nominate this man—rural activist Zhou Decai—to be their representative in the National People's Congress.