Pre-meditated Use of Lethal Force against Villagers Defending Their Land (March 3, 2006)

Comments Off on Pre-meditated Use of Lethal Force against Villagers Defending Their Land (March 3, 2006)

Pre-meditated Use of Lethal Force against
Villagers Defending Their Land

– Field Investigation of “December 3rd” Extra-judicial Killings
in Dongzhou, Guangdong Province

The Civil Rights Defence Network (Release No. 2006-1)

Published on March 4, 2006

“…the police shooting to kill did not have any legal standing, nor any excuses of so-called ‘self-defence’ or ‘protecting the power plant.’ It was evident abuse of lethal force. The Dongzhou massacre was the intentional killing of Dongzhou citizens defending their rights: it was planned and organized by the local government. Its purpose was to suppress and end Dongzhou and nearby villagers’ rights-defending actions demanding legitimate land protection, and to guard local government officials’ interests in illegal profiting from the appropriation of land.” – Civil Rights Defence Network

On December 6, 2005, the government of Shanwei City, Guangdong Province, ordered armed police forces to suppress Dongzhou villagers defending their land rights. Police opened fire at villagers and caused an unknown number of deaths and injuries. The news of this incident shocked many and brought condemnation and protests from around the world. However, the strict news censorship by the local Guangdong government and the silence in the domestic media has caused contradictions and disparities between foreign news reports and the official report by the local government. An objective investigation by an independent third-party was urgently needed in order to establish the basic facts about the Dongzhou incident, and thereby push for a fair solution within the legal framework. Recently, with the assistance of some local rights defenders, CRD was able to conduct an independent investigation at the scene.

According to the villagers of Dongzhou village and surrounding areas:

On December 5, 2005, it was rumoured in Shanwei City that the local government was assembling police forces in preparation for a crackdown on the villagers petitioning to defend their land rights.

On the morning of December 6, several police vehicles shuttled back and forth through Dongzhou village roads to the wind farm.

In the afternoon on December 6, several hundred villagers from the nearby Shigongliao village gathered outside the wind farm entrance to protest the inadequate compensation for their land. Dozens of villagers from Dongzhou also went to offer support. Two Dongzhou villagers were arrested by the police who quickly arrived on the scene to stop the protest. Other villagers ran back to Dongzhou to inform others.

At around 4pm on December 6, to stop police from taking away the arrested villagers and to prevent further attacks by the police on the village, villagers began blocking the road passing through Dongzhou village with various obstacles. Eventually 2,000 to 3,000 villagers arrived, some of them armed with sticks and fishing spears, as well as some fish bombs (villagers explained that a fish bomb is about the same size as a large firecracker and often used when fishing. They brought them to deter police), as well as firecrackers and fireworks. The majority of the villagers came unarmed.

At around 5pm, over 1500 police officers and anti-riot police officers, armed with police armoured vehicles, fire engines, and weapons such as machine guns, sub-machine guns and flamethrowers began gathering and began to get into formation about 100 meters away from the road block set up by villagers.

After 7pm, police started firing at villagers behind the road block with canisters of tear gas, and pushing closer towards the road block; several villagers were hit by plastic bullets. Villagers retreated, waiting for the tear gas to clear and then charged towards the road block and pushed back the police. The line was pushed back and forth several times.

Between 8:30pm and 9pm, the police who were stationed 50 meters from the road block, which was brightly illuminated by bright floodlights, began firing intensively at villagers using machine guns and sub-machine guns. It is not known whether warning shots were fired because villagers were inexperienced in this kind of confrontation, and there was a lot of smoke and noise. As they never anticipated the police would open fire on the crowd, lots of villagers paid for their ignorance with their blood; this accounted for the majority of injuries and deaths in the incident. Thereafter, the police refrained from further attacks. Some villagers said afterwards that they were clearing away the bodies, but this cannot be verified currently. Hundreds of villagers, still at the scene, only knew about police opening fire at 10pm, when they heard about the shot villagers who later died at the hospital. Thereafter, people started retreating back into the village, afraid of further loss of life. Police then started crossing the road block for the first time, and proceeded slowly in several directions (towards Dongzhou village office and police station, wind farm and coal-fire power plant). As they proceeded they fired shots at and used flamethrowers to burn down the bushes by the roadside where villagers may have hidden. They dismantled and burned down the many tents and signs put up by villagers at road junctions (including in front of the power station), and used the fire engines to clean up the bloodstains and evidence at the scene of the killings; gunshots were heard intermittently until after midnight.

Beginning on December 7, armoured police surrounded and closed off Dongzhou street and Dongzhou village, forbidding the villagers to go search for missing family members or to mourn the dead; the authorities cut off the village’s connections with the outside world, and simultaneously used propaganda and other tools to widely publicise in the village the justification of use of force by the government, placing the blame on the village representatives and participants in the protest. On December 9 the authorities started to hunt down and arrest village representatives and active protesters.

According to Dongzhou villagers, currently the families of the 3 known victims have received some money given as financial aid, not compensation, from the local government and authorities. The 8 people injured have received medical treatment, but families are still not allowed to visit them in the hospital, perhaps to prevent families from communicating with them and passing information on. They have not yet received any compensation. A further 30+ villagers are still missing, others fear that they may have been killed and their bodies destroyed; over 10 villagers have been arrested thus far, their families have not received any notification or procedures entitled under law. The location of detention is unknown. Some said that those arrested have been subjected to torture; some villagers have left the village to escape the manhunt.

In addition, based on our on-the-scene observations and understanding, in order to shift the blame, cover up the truth and seal off all information leaks, the local government is conducting a large-scale operation to hunt down village representatives, active participants and individuals who have passed information to the outside; telephone calls from Dongzhou and surrounding areas are closely monitored; the authorities have threatened the families of victims, injured and those detained with further arrest and detention, to forbid them from speaking about the incidents to the outside world or to anybody from the outside. The Dongzhou village office has been sealed off and stationed by armoured police; the crossroad where the killings happened is closely guarded by police and armoured vehicles round the clock; police checkpoints have been set up at the village office and around the village; authorities are checking all mini-buses coming in and out of the village, registering the number of travellers, their destinations and where they travelled from; the authorities have also closed down all routers in internet cafes in the Hunghaiwan (Red Bay) area so locals cannot get on the internet to understand the situation or to pass information out; road blocks and checkpoints have been set up on the major route connecting Shanwei city and Dongzhou village, to stop Dongzhou villagers from escaping and outsiders including journalists from entering the village to conduct investigations, etc.

(The billboard at the junction leading to the coal-fire plant with official slogan)
Since Dongzhou village is still under intense surveillance by the police, and the police are still hunting down participants in the land rights protest and those giving information to the outside world, villagers are still under siege, in the tight grip of threats and bloody terror; information and further details have been extremely hard to obtain, and some intelligence are yet to be verified. However, summing up information from different sources and our observations on the scene lead us to believe the following descriptions are the basic truth:

1. Before the killings took place, the Shigongliao wind farm and the Dongzhou coal-fire plant construction site were not attacked or damaged as described by official reports.

2. At the time of the killings, despite the large number of people congregated on both sides, a certain distance was maintained between the two sides the whole time, thus it is not true that there was chaos and confusion when the two crowds came into contact.

3. At the time of the killings, Dongzhou villagers were completely in a passive position. They did not possess any mechanism to launch an attack on the police, and did not form any real and imminent threat to the police, nor subsequently cause any harm.

4. The killings were not the consequence of a misjudgement on the scene, but were the consequence of deliberate police action at the initiative of the authorities.

5. The number of casualties and victims in the incident has yet to be verified and confirmed.

6. Based on the facts of the mobilization of police armed with heavy, the opening of fire at the villagers, and the subsequent cleaning up of the scene and destruction of the evidence, the whole operation has strongly suggested pre-meditation, organisation and purpose; the opening of fire was one of the pre-approved measures which the police were ready to use in the event that villagers refused to disperse and back down.

7. From the signs before and after the incident, and from our understanding about how the military police would use firearms only with the approval from superiors, the order to shoot definitely did not come from the police commander at the scene or even a Shanwei City official.

From these facts, we reach our basic conclusion: the police shooting to kill did not have any legal standing, nor any excuses of so-called “self-defence” or “protecting the power plant.” It was evident abuse of lethal force. The Dongzhou massacre was the intentional killing of Dongzhou citizens defending their rights: it was planned and organized by the local government. Its purpose was to suppress and end Dongzhou and nearby villagers’ rights-defending actions demanding legitimate land protection, and to guard local government officials’ interests in illegal profiting from the appropriation of land.

Once again, we urge the government to take the following immediate actions:

1. The central government must take effective measures to ensure that the violent suppression is halted, the armed blockade of the village is lifted, and the situation is not allowed to deteriorate further. It must also guarantee the physical safety of the villagers who have sought to defend their rights, and release detained villagers and guarantee their legal rights.

2. The government and the procuratorate should take immediate action to investigate and make public the truth about the bloodshed.

3. The government should immediately lift media controls that block reporting about the events, allow independent investigation by human rights NGOs, and submit itself to the supervision and scrutiny of the public and the media.

4. Officials of the government and the armed police who ordered the shooting and the crackdown should be prosecuted and punished according to law in a just and independent judicial process.

5. The name list of the villagers who were killed should be made public as soon as possible, and the bereaved families should receive aid, while the injured should be given care and proper compensation.

6. Consultations and negotiations must get underway between local government/developers and villagers whose land was expropriated. The villagers must be given proper compensation and settlement in accordance with laws and regulations.

7. All embezzlement and corruption relating to the annexation of land for construction of the Shanwei Power Plant should be investigated and punished.

Finally, we appeal to all Chinese citizens of good conscience, the international community, and human rights organizations to continue strong condemnation of the brutality of local officials in Guangdong province, to follow carefully the development of the situation, and to assist the Dongzhou villagers as they continue to seek legitimate ways to protect their rights.

Civil Rights Defense Network

January 6, 2006


1. Three confirmed deaths (all from Dongzhou Village)

Lin Yidui 林怡兑(26)
Jiang Guangge 江光革(35)
Wei Jin 魏 锦(31)

2. Fourteen detained (from Dongzhou Village unless otherwise noted):

Huang Xijun黄希俊(40+, village representative)
Huang Mei 黄 美(Female, 51岁, Haifeng Village)
Huang Xiping 黄希平(49)
Huang Xiran 黄希燃(35)
Huang Xirang 黄希让(40+, village representative)
Chen Mianhe陈棉河(about 40)
Chen Shengliu陈生流(30+)
Zheng Wenzheng郑文镇(48)
Gu Jiao 古 铰(40+)
Chen Jinsong 陈金松(40+)
Zhang Jinwang 张金旺(about 40)
Lin Hanru 林汉如(40+, village representative)
Zhou Qinfu 卓钦富(40+)
You Zhizhu尤智助(50+)

(CRD collaborated with the research of this report and provided the English translation)

The Chinese text with photos: Article_Show.asp?ArticleID=207

Back to Top