Tangshan protest

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The Tangshan protest (Chinese: 唐山反政府) occurred in 2004 after more than 11,000 farmers in Hebei Province, China signed a petition calling for the removal of Communist Party officials who were allegedly involved in corruption. The protest led to a crackdown on rights activists and further repression of the farmers.

Details[edit]

Between 1992 and 1997, 23,000 Chinese farmers were resettled in Tangshan City, Hebei to make way for the Taolinkou reservoir, some 100 km (62 mi) to east of Beijing. By 2004, more than eight years after they had been moved, the displaced farmers had not been properly compensated. The farmers asserted that up to 60 million yuan of compensation funds had been misappropriated by officials from the local Government. They said they were owed 13,000 yuan (U.S. $1,570) per household in compensation but some had received only half the amount, while others had received nothing [1].

Under the leadership of Zhang Youren, a peasant activist, the farmers organised a petition. They were given advice and encouragement by Yu Meisun and Li Boguang, both legal scholars, and Zhao Yan a journalist with the magazine China Reform. The petition, signed by 11,238 farmers, was entitled “The request to remove the National and Heibei Province People's Congress Representative status of Tangshan Municipal Communist Party Secretary, Zhang He”. The petition described the living conditions of the displaced farmers and how previous appeals had led to beatings, detention and forced labour. [2]

In February 2004, a group of ten farmer representatives travelled to the capital to submit their petition to the National People's Congress. In his opening speech to the Congress, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao promised a crackdown on corruption and illegal land seizures [3]. Nevertheless, the farmers from Tangshan were rounded up by the Beijing police who accused them of being Falungong members and subversives [4]. Zhang Youren was put under pressure to denounce the 'criminals' who had supported the petition. Zhao Yan quickly lost his job with the China Reform magazine and by the end of the year he had been imprisoned; he was still in jail two years later when the authorities finally convicted him of fraud [5]. Li Boguang was arrested in December 2004 but released after a few weeks on condition that he had no further involvement in farmer protests [6]. Yu Meisun, who had already served an earlier jail sentence, was able to publish an online diary that gave details of police harassment.

Personal Account[edit]

Yu Meisun's diary includes the following account by Zhao Yan:

"Since early this year, displaced people from Tangshan and Qinhuangdao here in Hebei, and Fu'an City and Minhou Country in Fujian whose rights have long been violated have been demanding the recall of their Party Secretaries and mayors, making 2004 a landmark year for peasant activism. But these campaigns have been unlawfully suppressed by local police. The corrupt officials who are targets of the people's boiling grievances haven't been affected at all... This will ultimately lead the peasants to despair of any method but rebellion, and we'll see a new peasant revolution. In a couple of days, I'll go to Tangshan to visit Zhang Youren. Let's see if Zhang He has the nerve to arrest and charge me!

Further reading[edit]

  • Diary of a Peasant Advocate, Yu Meisun, China Rights Forum, 2004/3, pages 61–67 [7].
  • Selected reports on Incidents relating to forced evictions, March 2003 - January 2005, Congressional Executive Commission on China [8]
  • Property Seizure in China, Roundtable Report, 21 June 2004, Congressional Executive Commission on China [9].
  • Ruling the Chinese Countryside: Rights Consciousness, Collective Action and Property Rights, Christopher Heurlin, 2006, University of Washington, [10]
  • Chinese Society: Change Conflict and Resistance, Elizabeth Perry (ed.), 2003, Routledge [11]

See also[edit]