Trouble on the farm
The summer harvest is drawing near, but farmer Wang Xiaofeng won't have much to show for it.
Her field is now barren, with just a few large ruts and some ruined wheat plants left to rot.
Wang is one of 12 villagers in the Yimen township of Binxian county, in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, who had their crops wiped out by the local government to make room for a new agricultural processing center.
The farmers said they tried to communicate with the government multiple times about the issue, questioning the legitimacy of the land acquisition and bargaining over resettlement and compensation.
But the farmers said they were ignored, with the loss of crops adding insult to injury.
On May 18, 400 to 500 county and township officials went to the fields with forklifts and police cars, destroying the ripening wheat by force.
Twenty-five-year-old Xu Jianglong had to go to a local hospital after being attacked while trying to save his family's crops.
He recalled arguing with the forklift drivers, with several men in camouflage coats ending the argument by coming up to him, throwing him onto a nearby road and beating him.
Another three injured villagers, all female, are also receiving treatment at the hospital.
The incident is not the first of its kind in the county. In the winter of 2011, local farmers had their fruit trees cut down by township officials over a similar land grab.
Local farmer Xi Zhuowen had all of his pear trees cut down by the officials, only a day after he consented to the original terms of the acquisition.
Xi said 80 percent of local villagers are reluctant to sign such agreements, as the local government often fails to negotiate with them on issues regarding compensation and resettlement.
Although most of the county's farmers received some compensation for their fruit trees in February, they were not satisfied with the amount given.
The 64,000 yuan ($10,000) in compensation given for every mu (15 mu = 1 hectare) of acquired land has not been handed out yet, as a method of distribution has not been agreed upon.
Xi said that the township government originally said that it would wait until the wheat harvest was over before discussing the land acquisition with the farmers.
However, the government broke its promise and said nothing about the compensation before destroying the wheat.
Some villagers also pointed out that according to land acquisition procedures, acquisitions cannot be carried out before compensation is issued.
Li Shuwang, a county government official in charge of industrial park construction, said the plan to build the agricultural processing center was conceived in 2009.
The county decided to hasten the pace of construction, fearing that investors might grow impatient, Li said, adding that some villagers have opposed the land grab.
Li Xiaoxi, another county official, showed Xinhua a land acquisition approval document issued by the provincial government on Dec 30, 2011.
Yang Feng, head of Yimen township, said she was at the site of the land grab on May 18.
She said the forklifts were driven by a construction team hired by the government.
Yang admitted that some villagers were injured when the police were "keeping order" after the operation of the forklifts was interrupted by the villagers.
It was the government officials who carried the injured villagers to the ambulances, Yang added.
To ensure grain security, Chinese authorities require the total amount of arable land nationwide to constantly remain above 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares).
However, the country is facing growing challenges in preserving arable land due to rapid urbanization and massive infrastructure construction.
Data from the Ministry of Land and Resources showed that the country is already edging dangerously close to the arable land limit, with about 1.83 billion mu available as of the end of 2009.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.