Officials promised an investigation into land sales to defuse days of large, sometimes violent protests by villagers in southern China who say they are being pushed off farmland for property development, state media and local villagers said Sunday.
Government officials struck a compromise with leaders from Wukan village on Saturday, promising a full investigation of all land sales if locals would halt the protests, according to a report in the official Southern Daily posted late Saturday on the website of Shanwei city, which oversees Wukan.
The strategy appeared to work. While villagers gathered to protest for a fourth day Saturday as negotiations took place, no one congregated to do so as of midday Sunday, said villagers contacted by phone.
Locals, however, said they remain angry and expect the government investigation to expose what they say is an unfair transfer of farmland to build factories. "We want our land returned to us," said a woman who took part in the protests and would only give her surname, Yang.
With a booming economy, demand for land to build factories and housing complexes has soared. Land disputes have grown apace, becoming one of the leading causes of the tens of thousands of large-scale protests that hit China every year. Around Wukan village and in much of the rest of Guangdong province, conflicts have been intense because the area is among China's most economically developed, pushing up land prices.
In Wukan, hundreds of villagers overturned cars, besieged government buildings and clashed with police on Wednesday and Thursday before settling into a more peaceful standoff for two more days.