The number of rural protests involving mass participation declined "markedly"
last year, and will continue to drop if government officials work in real
earnest to redress farmers' complaints.
That was the message delivered yesterday by Chen Xiwen, the top advisor to
the government on rural policy.
"Overall, the volume of rural mass incidents in 2006 clearly fell from the
previous year," Chen, director of the Office of Central Rural Work Leading
Group, told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office in
revealed after the briefing that he estimated the decline in protests was close
to 20 percent, and there had been 23,000 such incidents on the mainland last
year, with less than half in the countryside.
Nearly half of the rural mass protests, including petitions and riots, were
triggered by illegal land seizures or expropriation, and the rest were sparked
by farmers' discontent over village finances and pollution, Chen said.
To fix the woes, the State Council has ordered local governments to raise
compensation for farmers who lose their land for development projects, and
provide vocational training and re-employment services in addition to bringing
them under the social security umbrella, he said.
The Chinese Cabinet has also begun to hold provincial governments responsible
for diverting farmland to other uses in excess of quotas, he added.
China has to do whatever it can to prevent farmland from shrinking below the
120-million-hectare warning line to ensure food security in the years ahead, he
told China Daily. The acreage was 122.1 million hectares at the end of 2005.
There are channels for farmers to complain in China, but the key is to ensure
that they are clear; and government officials handle issues concerning farmers'
interests strictly in line with statutes and policies, he said.
If their interests were not prejudiced, farmers would have fewer grudges, he
"It's still the case that issues that arose several years ago have not been
properly resolved or not resolved to farmers' satisfaction, and so they are
still unhappy and continue to complain," he said.
Chen said government officials should not neglect farmers' petitions on the
pretext that they are trivial instead, they should strive to resolve their
Relations between farmers and local officials have improved following the
phasing out of the centuries-old agricultural tax and the building of a market
system for grain distribution.
In the past, they were strained largely because rural officials were
responsible for collecting the revenue and grain directly from farmers, Chen
(China Daily 01/31/2007 page1)