Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, September 29, 2011

All is not well in the PRC

Civic unrest may be growing, but it certainly is becoming more visible to outsiders. I wonder how well the Politburo can see it.

Land Dispute Stirs Riots in Southern China
Rioters in southern Guangdong Province have besieged government buildings, attacked police officers and overturned SWAT team vehicles during protests this week against the seizure of farmland, said officials in Shanwei, a city not far from Hong Kong that skirts the South China Sea.

According to the Web site of the Shanwei municipal government, hundreds of people on Wednesday blocked an important highway while others mobbed the local headquarters of the Communist Party and a police station in the city of Lufeng, injuring a dozen officers. Some witnesses, posting anonymous accounts online, put the number of rioters at more than a thousand…

The violence was the latest outbreak of civil unrest in China fueled by popular discontent over industrial pollution, police misconduct or illegal land grabs that leave peasants with little or no compensation. Such “mass incidents,” as the government calls them, have been steadily increasing in recent years, providing party leaders with worrisome proof that official malfeasance combined with a dysfunctional judiciary often has combustible results.

According to a recent study by two scholars at Nankai University, there were 90,000 such incidents in 2009, a figure that includes melees as well as mass petition campaigns by people seeking justice. Government censors often work hard to make sure such incidents stay off the Internet and out of newspapers.

Last week, hundreds of residents protesting environmental contamination by a solar panel factory in eastern Zhejiang Province stormed the factory and destroyed office equipment and vehicles. Weeks earlier, 12,000 people peacefully gathered in the northeastern city of Dalian to demand the closure of a chemical factory…

Municipal governments, which own all land in China, largely depend on property sales to fill their operating budgets. In many cases, private real-estate companies collude with local officials to clear and develop the land as quickly as possible. The central government in Beijing has tried to stem such abuses with strictures on rural development but like many laws in China, their impact has so far been limited…

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