8 killed in China rural land dispute: Government

8 killed in China rural land dispute: Government
Villagers carry police shields taken from police injured during clashes at Fuyou village in Jinning county, Kunming, Yunnan province, October 15, 2014.

BEIJING - Eight people were killed when villagers clashed with construction workers over a building project in southwestern China, officials said Wednesday, in the latest land dispute to turn violent.

Six construction workers and two villagers were killed on Tuesday in Jinning, a rural county in Yunnan province, with a further 18 injured, the local government said on a verified microblog.

Violent clashes over property are common in China's countryside, where cash-strapped local governments depend on selling land to developers to raise funds, and generally offer low compensation to locals.

The violence began when a construction firm sent in men with riot shields and helmets to fend off locals who were opposed to the building of a logistics centre, respected financial news outlet Caixin cited locals as saying.

Pictures posted online apparently showed locals overpowering the hired men, who were shown kneeling in a row with others lying on the ground, apparently with their hands bound.

Locals contacted by AFP said that the number of deaths was likely higher than government estimates, but were not able to give a precise number.

Construction firms in China sometimes hire private security staff to forcibly evict villagers, or deal with clashes arising from land grabs, estimated to spark tens of thousands of protests in the country each year.

A 2012 survey by US advocacy group Landesa found that more than 20 per cent of Chinese farmers were never compensated when their land was sold, while others were on average paid "a fraction of the mean price authorities themselves received".

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