More than 600 riot police in 50 vehicles have raided farmers' homes in Shijiahe village near the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, firing plastic bullets at local residents who were preparing to take their grievances to Beijing, RFA's Mandarin service reports.
Six people were injured by plastic bullets in the 2 a.m. raid Saturday, which followed months of unsuccessful petitioning by the villagers, who accuse local officials of corruption, eyewitnesses told RFA. More than 30 people were hit by the plastic bullets fired by the riot police, and six needed medical treatment, they said. Several representatives of the farmers who had intended to travel to Beijing were detained during the raid.
"[My daughter] has three bullets lodged in her buttock and another two in her leg," one villager told RFA from her daughter's bedside in the Zhengzhou City Center Hospital.
Local farmers accuse village chief Liu Guozhao of appropriating at least 40 million yuan (U.S.$4.8 million) of compensation money for farmland turned over to developers. Previous attempts to take their case higher up China's bureaucracy, including the Zhengzhou municipal government, had met with no response, so the group had made plans to travel to the capital along with thousands of others from all over China who arrive outside the gates of those in power every week.
The Chinese authorities continue to persecute the growing number of petitioners across the country. Police often beat, detain them, and even send them to labor camps or bring criminal cases against them in court. They are frequently followed to Beijing by police from their hometowns, with the collusion of police in the capital.
The requisition of land by local governments and their crony development companies is a frequent cause for complaint, as local residents are evicted from their homes or lose farmland they need to make a living so local governments can cash in on skyrocketing property values.