Shaanxi Court Jails Farmers For Land Protest

February 10, 2005

A Shaanxi provincial court has sentenced 27 farmers to prison terms for charges related to their participation in local land protests, according to New York Times, Agence France-Presse, and Voice of America reports. The farmers had spent almost two years protesting, holding sit-ins, and petitioning national authorities over the seizure of their land in Sanchawan village, arguing that the seizure was unlawful and that the compensation paid was unfair. The protests erupted into violence in October 2004, when 1,600 riot police sent to break up the protest reportedly opened fire on the protesters. According to the reports, the court sentenced protest leader Gao Lading to 15 years in prison. Five others were given long sentences. The remaining 21 farmers reportedly received prison terms of three years or less.

The stiff sentences handed out in Shaanxi reflect growing government concern over rural unrest stemming from property seizures. According to Chinese rural development specialist Yu Jianrong, property seizures have replaced rural taxes as the primary focus of peasant activism, and scholars are warning of "turbulence" if the government does not control the problem. The Party has responded to unrest by launching a public campaign to control abusive land practices, while curtailing domestic reporting on land disputes and punishing protest leaders. For additional stories on land seizures and their affect on social stability in China, click here. For a table of recent property rights protests, click here.