Farmers sue city government

South China Morning Post, Saturday 31 March 2001

More than 1,500 farmers from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are suing a city government for allegedly reclaiming their land and paying them too little or no compensation.

According to the semi-official China News Service, about 1,645 farmers have filed a lawsuit against the Xinjiang Urumqi Economic and Technology Development Zone Management Committee, which is a government agency.

The farmers claim that in May 1993, the committee requested that farmers from Dadiwobao village, which is under the jurisdiction of Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, give up their farmland.

In return, the farmers would become urban residents and employees of the Agricultural and Trading company, the China News Service said.

But many of the farmers were not given jobs by the company or any compensation for their land, the farmers claim. In response, they took the committee to the Xinshi People's Court, where the proceedings began yesterday. The news report said the farmers are demanding the return of their land and former lifestyles.

Tu Lage, a deputy director of the committee, said the demands were impossible to meet. The land has been developed into factories, roads and schools, he said.

Mr Tu said of the 2,900 farmers on the 4.3 square km piece of land, about 1,000 have received 15,000 yuan (HK$14,100) in compensation, while the rest have not received anything. He said this was due to insufficient funds, although authorities hoped to pay the farmers gradually.

He said 400 to 500 farmers found employment with the company and those who received no compensation or employment were put on a monthly living subsidy of 130 yuan.

Mr Tu said farmers were angry over the low price the committee offered for their land.

The committee offered to pay farmers 500 yuan per square metre, but owners felt the price should be doubled according to government guidelines, the report said.