2016-06-17 11:45:19

In the early morning of June 15, local police arrested 99 villagers in Xiangutang, a village near Hezhou City in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, for obstruction of law enforcement and for blocking the production of the village’s quarries.

“The police came to the village with a list of names provided by village cadres,” a Xiangutang resident surnamed Liu told Sixth Tone. “They put black cloths over their heads, and if someone resisted, they used stun guns.” Liu was only willing to provide her family name for fear of repercussions from local authorities.

The arrests follow a long-running conflict around the village’s 15 quarries, which according a Thursday Caixin article villagers said were contracted out without their consent, despite being communal property. In the article, villagers said local cadres rented the quarries to a small portion of villagers and developers at 5,000 yuan per year — a price they say is too low. The contractors then rented out the quarries to mining companies at a much higher price.

So far, more than 70 of the arrested villagers have been released, though most of them returned home with bruises they say were the result of beatings at the hands of police. There are still 17 people being detained, though, and Liu’s father is among them.

For more than a week, villagers blocked access routes to the quarries in an attempt to stop production at the quarries. The villagers resorted to these measures after their earlier attempts to report the issue to the local government received no response.

Around 3 a.m. on June 15, a group of police raided villagers’ houses and arrested some on charges of hindering production in the quarries. Other villagers were caught by police for allegedly obstructing law enforcement and for gathering in front of government offices later the same day.

On the morning of June 16, a police station in Hezhou City, which has jurisdiction over Xiangutang Village, announced on its Weibo microblog that “To protect the order of production and crack down criminal activities, police arrested 23 people for hindering legitimate business and 76 people for obstructing law enforcement.”

When Sixth Tone contacted the same police station by phone, they refused to comment on the case.

“Today, some officials from the Nanning government told villagers that the quarries will be shut down for a while,” Liu said. “Doors of village cadres’ houses are closed, and we can’t find them. Because of the arrests, the villagers who have been released are afraid of speaking out against the government on Weibo or of taking any substantial action.”

(Header image: Villagers gather at the quarries in Hezhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, June 2016. Courtesy of Liu)