More than 3,000 villagers in Zhejiang province of eastern China blocked a highway and clashed with police as they protested against alleged official corruption in a land compensation deal according to a human rights monitor and a witness.
Ten residents of Shipu town were injured in the clash with more than 300 riot police on the 25th of July, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a faxed statement.
Another resident, Chen, told the Associated Press that thousands of people had been staging a sit-in on the land for nearly a week. They said the protesters accuse local officials of arranging a deal in which villagers were paid far less than market value for their land.
The villagers were apparently leasing the roughly 800-acre (320-hectare) stretch of land to the Changguo Saltern company, which used it for saltworks. The land was recently sold to be developed into a science and technology park, the human rights center said.
Chen and the human rights center said thousands of villagers have staged sit-ins at the salt fields since July 20. At least 3,000 villagers were there Sunday, Chen said.
A man on duty at Changguo confirmed by phone that several thousand villagers blocked a highway Saturday and said several were taken away by police.
The employee, who refused to give his name, said the villagers believed the land was worth three times the price the local government had set — 20,000 yuan (US$2,900) per mu. A mu is a Chinese measure of land equal to about 0.15 acres (0.06 hectares).
"The villagers want the local authorities to address the corruption and the central government to intervene in this case, but some local officials have been preventing this information from getting to the relevant authorities," Chen said.
A county government official said he had not heard about the case and refused to give his name. Calls to the Shipu town government rang unanswered, while a woman at the town's police station said she was not aware of the case.
Protests are common in China over land seizures. Local government officials often confiscate land for infrastructure and housing projects, with little or no compensation. As many migrant workers have recently lost their employment in the cities and return to the countryside, there is more pressure for land than before.