China police detain local official, developer over land grab death

BEIJING - Chinese police have detained seven suspects, including a local official and a property developer, in connection with the death of a villager in a land grab case in eastern China, state-backed media reported on Wednesday.

Seizures of land across China, a major cause of unrest in the country, have been fuelled by soaring prices and the government's urban expansion drive, resulting in often violent clashes between officials and villagers.

The 63-year-old villager from Shandong province was camped out near his farm to protect it from being seized, Chinese media reported. He was killed when his tent was set on fire last week. Three others were hurt.

Four arsonists were hired by a property developer and a village official, Legal Daily reported. The seventh person detained was acting a middleman.

Outdated laws mean farmers have little legal recourse to oppose land grabs - commonly where village leaders sell off plots to a developer with little or no consultation - or to demand fairer compensation.