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Chinese villagers vow to 'fight to death' after deadly land clashes Police surround a rural village in southwest China after violence leaves at least eight dead and 18 injured

By Tom Phillips - Daily Telegraph, October 16, 2014

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Villagers in southwest China have vowed to “fight to the death" after a long-running land dispute erupted into violence that left eight people dead and at least 18 injured.

Hundreds of police were surrounding Fuyou village in Yunnan province on Thursday morning in the wake of pitched battles between local farmers and hundreds of unidentified men who launched a Tuesday afternoon assault on the community.

At least two villagers and six "attackers" were killed in the skirmishes which appear to have been sparked by a row over a developer's attempts to evict farmers from their land in order to build a logistics centre.

"Villagers are angry and sad," said Zhou Lihui, a 41-year-old resident, who witnessed the battle. "Two of our men were beaten to death. What crime did we commit? All we were doing was trying to protect our land."

Clashes over land are an almost daily occurrence in a rapidly urbanising China, where villagers are often unfairly forced from their homes by cash-strapped or corrupt local officials who sell farmers' lands to developers in order to stay afloat.

However, the violence that has gripped Fuyou village, near Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, has been shocking even by Chinese standards.

Graphic photographs circulating on social media appear to show the charred and disfigured corpses of some of the eight people killed on Tuesday. One body has been dumped in a local canal.

Li Yunfeng, a spokesperson for Kunming's Public Security Bureau, told the Beijing Times newspaper "total chaos" had taken hold of the village and said police were investigating.

The "invasion" of Fuyou village (pop. 4,000) began at around 8am on Tuesday when half-a-dozen trucks and around 20 cars carrying hundreds of uniformed men pulled up at its entrance.

At around 3pm the men began chanting in an apparent attempt to intimidate villagers, one witness said.

"They shouted: 'One, two, three, charge, kill!'" claimed Zhou Lihui, the villager.

"Then, all of a sudden, they charged, with steel pipes, knives, tear gas and shields. It was terrifying. I was very scared. They are mafia. They attacked anyone they saw."

Ms Zhou said the invaders had also been carrying bags featuring an image of Chairman Mao's head and the slogan: "Serve the people". "Serve the people!" she scoffed. "It is so ironic. They used those bags to keep their weapons in."

Reports in the Chinese media suggested villagers had taken a number of the alleged aggressors hostage. Six were reportedly killed.

The identity of those men was not immediately clear. Government officials described them as "construction workers" but Caixin, a Chinese magazine, reported that "some of the attackers had shields bearing police symbols".

Zhou Lihui said she suspected the men were connected to the local government and compared the clashes to China's bloody Second World War battles with Japan.

"They are like the Japanese and we are the Chinese," she said. "We will risk our lives to defend our rights. If things do not improve then we will march out of the village - all of us, men, women, children and the elderly - and we will fight to the death.

"We are not afraid," Ms Zhou added. "We fear nothing."

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