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The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Officials refused to reveal the scale of the trouble"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Chinese farmers in tax riot
Rice farm
Farmers are getting poorer as urban areas expand
Armed police are reported to have been brought in to quell rioting by thousands of farmers over increasing taxes in southern China's Jiangxi province.

The farmers attacked government offices and the homes of local officials in a number of townships.

Chinese officials confirmed the unrest to the BBC and said an investigation team had been sent to Jiangxi.

The riots appear to have broken out 10 days ago.

Eye witnesses said around 2,000 farmers surrounded the local government headquarters in Yuandu and some stormed the building, smashing furniture and fittings.

They told the French news agency AFP that homes of officials in Yuandu were extensively damaged.

Armed response

According to a Hong Kong-based human rights group, more than 20,000 farmers have taken part in the protests.

The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy says that the Chinese Government sent more than 2,000 armed police to Yuandu to help local police end the unrest.

The group quoted farmers in Jiangxi as saying they made about US$48 a year from each acre of land but had to pay about $22 per year per acre in tax.

Chinese farming family
Jiangxi is one of China's poorest and most rural provinces
Once other overheads had been deducted the farmers have an annual income of about $12 per acre.

The centre said farmers had tried to circulate copies of an official Communist Party pamphlet recommending limits on taxation, but they were accused of printing without a license.

Correspondents say protests against high taxes and tyrannical officialdom have become commonplace in China's vast rural hinterland as farming incomes fall behind those in fast-developing urban areas.

Anti-corruption cure

The Chinese Government has been pursuing a strenuous campaign against corruption saying clean government is the only way to stave off unrest in the rural areas.

Jiangxi is one or China's poorest and most rural provinces and provided the Chinese communists' first base during the 1930s civil war.

One way the communists gained rural support was by getting rid of heavy taxes imposed on poor peasant farmers by the corrupt nationalist regime.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese miners in mass riot
09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese corruption partner gets life
20 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China expels 'corrupt' official
04 Apr 00 | World
Growth ahead for poorer nations
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