Farmers slip net at fund protest

Stephen E Philion philion at
Thu Jan 20 22:10:39 PST 2000

I find the remark of the official in response to the farmers especially rich. Steve

South China Morning Post - China

Friday, January 21, 2000

Farmers slip net at fund protest

Dozens of angry farmers, who lost money when their eel exports to

Japan plummeted, charged a government office yesterday in a dramatic

illustration of tensions caused by the mainland's moves into the

global economy.

The short but hot-tempered protest in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian

province, was one of many in recent months that have involved often

poorly managed investment funds set up without government permission

in the vast countryside.

The farmers from Fuqing, about 40km south of Fuzhou, had pooled money

in a fund they set up themselves to invest mainly in eel farming, a

popular business along the eastern seaboard, said a Fujian government

official who deals with public grievances.

Initially, the venture made money but exports to Japan fell in the

last two years and the fund collapsed in 1999, the official said.

A Hong Kong-based human rights group said 200 farmers pushed through

50 security guards outside the gate to the provincial government

office in Fuzhou and made their way to the front of the building.

More than 200 police reinforcements arrived, detained the farmers,

loaded them on to trucks and drove to an unknown location, the

Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China

reported. It quoted witnesses who said five farmers were injured and

taken away by ambulance.

The official denied the account. He said 30 to 40 farmers showed up to

protest and about 20 got past security and sat quietly in a courtyard

until police arrived.

Two people who fought with police were detained, but officials later

released them because they "decided that their high spirits were

understandable", the official said.

There were no arrests or injuries and officials met representatives of

the protesters for an hour before loading all the farmers into two

trucks and returning them to Fuqing, the official said.

The official said he did not know why the farmers' exports fell.

Japan, however, has been struggling to pull out of its deepest

economic downturn since the end of World War II.

The official suggested the farmers should have kept themselves better

informed about the market.

"They have to accept the main responsibility for the fund's collapse,"

he said.

The Government, worried about unrest, has been trying to close down

unauthorised investment funds.


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