Opinion / Editorials

An avoidable deadly clash

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-17 07:43

Forced evacuations and land seizures have been notorious triggers of "mass incidents" for years.

We know it. The authorities know it. We know they know it very well. We also know they were seldom innocent third parties in those tragedies.

We have seen plenty of bloody confrontations between rascal developers and helpless villagers. We have heard plenty about government pledges to make evacuations and land seizures less intimidating.

What happened on Tuesday in Jinning county, Kunming city, Yunnan province, is additional proof of the lethal potential of such a flashpoint.

A violent clash between hit men on the developers' side and villagers left eight dead and 18 wounded.

Witness accounts reveal a frightening scene: Truckloads of helmet-wearing, uniformed hit men carrying iron bars and old-fashioned military shoulder bags stuffed with rocks, marched into the village, shouting slogans. Some of them held shields with police insignia. They attacked villagers with the rocks and bars, and blocked the road to the village. Villagers, armed with sticks and farm tools, fought back.

The fuse for this powder keg couldn't be more familiar: Hundreds of hectares of the village's land had been seized to build a logistics center. But villagers, dissatisfied with the compensation they had been promised, obstructed construction work.

Local authorities say they are investigating the causes of the tragedy. Sooner or later, they will have to come up with their official account. We only hope it will be a convincing one.

Considering that the tension has been building for three years, and lesser conflicts have occurred several times before, the local authorities, if they claim ignorance about why this happened, will only be acknowledging their own dereliction of duty.

Just a little more than four months ago, villagers fought back hundreds of people dispatched to execute the land seizure. The villagers overturned police vehicles and took officials hostage.

Another violent encounter about this time last year left more than 30 government vehicles damaged and 26 police officers injured.

The villagers must shoulder their due share of responsibility throughout the process that led to the most recent violence. In the Tuesday melee, for example, they killed six attackers.

But escalation of the conflict exposes a more worrying aspect of the story - the obvious failure of the local government.

Officials' impatience, ineptitude and rude approach in dealing with public discontent are evidence that they are no longer fit to lead.

And there's one more element deserving of scrutiny: In addition to finding out the entire truth about Tuesday's tragedy, it is necessary to take a look at the relationship between the developers and local officials.

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