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    Shangpu Villagers Demand Democratic Elections After Land Grab


    by NTDTelevision

    Here in the village of Shangpu, in China's southern Guangdong province, residents faced off against an armed blockade of ruffians. Out armed by far, these villagers stood their ground, and eventually gained a small victory.

    The standoff began last Friday, after protests against their local party chief Li Baoyu erupted. They accuse him of leasing their land to a close business friend for ridiculously low prices.

    [Ms Wu, Mianhu County Resident]:
    "The villagers want their land back so they can farm, they need it to survive. The official [Li Baoyu] claimed he only sold 400 mu of land, but actually he sold more than 1,000 mu in total. Our land is worth tens of thousands of yuan each mu, but he only sold it for 2,000 yuan, of course the villagers are protesting."

    According to the Financial Times, Li signed a 50-year long lease for only five to six-thousand yuan ($803-963) per mu a year. This is much longer than most leases in China, and far below normal prices.

    Li has been arrested and replaced by another official but residents are far from happy. They are calling for democratic elections and the right to choose their own leaders.

    [Ms Wu, Mianhu County Resident]:
    "The villagers are holding the banners insisting they want democratic election. The villagers didn't agree to the land sale, they didn't choose this official, so now there are a lot of these democracy slogans around the village."

    But even if the villagers are granted free elections, reform could be in short supply. Wukan village, just about 60 miles from Shangpu, won democratic elections in 2012. But a year later, they are reporting that little has been done as their local officials haven't been able to create true change.

    The BBC reports that Shangpu villagers have blocked the road with overturned cars. They have set up checkpoints to keep the ruffians at bay, but their fight is far from over.

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