China protests: Authorities 'to investigate land sales'

Villagers from Longtou in Lufeng play on the rubble of a surrounding wall after it was torn down by villagers earlier in the week on 24 September 2011.
Image caption This wall was torn down during the protests

The Chinese authorities have agreed to investigate local government land sales that prompted several days of sometimes violent public protests, media say.

Villagers in southern China say they are being pushed off farmland for property development.

Unrest broke out on Wednesday, but the situation now appears to be calmer.

Officials said protesters in Lufeng in Guangdong province injured police officers and damaged government buildings during the protest.

Several hundred people were reported to have attacked a police station and government buildings, and to have used earth-movers to smash down a wall around the seized land.

Chinese reporters who visited the area on Saturday evening said it appeared to be calm.

They said protest banners had been taken down and restaurants were open for business.

Locals, however, said they remain angry and expect the government investigation to expose what they say is an unfair transfer of farmland to build factories.

"We want our land returned to us," said a woman who took part in the protests.

'Mass incidents'

There are tens of thousands of mass incidents, as they are known, in China every year.

Some of the highest-profile recent protests have been in Guangdong province, whose factories turn out about a third of China's exports.

One often-heard complaint is that corrupt officials collude with developers to sell off farmland without giving farmers the proper compensation, correspondents say.

Laws are in place to protect farmers, but are often ignored at local level.

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