Masters of the land

Lawrence Solomon
National Post
January 24, 2008

Third world peasants have a history of clamouring for land reform. China’s peasants are rewriting history. They want China’s system of collective land ownership thrown out and replaced by privatization.

This news comes to me from my colleague at Probe International, Grainne Ryder, an impeccable source for grass roots stirrings from Asia. She relayed details of local uprising from farmer groups that could be a sign of things to come. Read one of the farmers’ declarations, claiming to represent 40,000 farmers in Heilongjiang: “Officials and powerful groups seized large amount of farmland taken over from farmers under the name of the central government and became the real ‘landlords’. Although farmers are supposedly masters of the land, they are forced to become serfs under the landlords . . . We decided collectively to change this kind of land occupation and protect farmers’ rights as the masters of the land by declaring household and individual ownership.”

The police, of course, will have none of it. In Dongnangang, following a village meeting that worked out out how farmers should divide land among themselves, a leader of the farm privatization movement was arrested, as were farm leaders in Sanmenxia,where farmers who were displaced by the Sanmenxia hydro power project in the 1980s received just half the compensation of land promised them – Chinese government officials kept the other half for themselves.

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