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China land dispute farmer burned to death: reports

BEIJING -- A Chinese farmer was burned to death during a protest over local land seized for development, state-run media said Monday, highlighting struggles over compensation for land.

Geng Fulin, 62, died when a tent that he and other farmers had erected next to a swathe of rural terrain sold by the local government to a property developer caught fire, the state-run Global Times reported.

Two others in the tent were injured in the blaze on Friday in Pingdu in the eastern province of Shandong, the Global Times reported, adding that police suspect arson.

Locals claimed that the land had been secretly sold to a property developer and farmers who held rights to use it had not received compensation to which they were entitled, the report said.

Local government officials took Geng's body to be cremated following his death, according to portal Caixin, which cited family members. It added that a heavy police presence was visible at Geng's funeral on Sunday.

The case prompted widespread outrage on Chinese social media on Monday, highlighting continued efforts by Chinese farmers to secure compensation for seized land, which local governments sell to property developers as a key source of income.

A 2012 survey by U.S. advocacy group Landesa found that more than 20 percent of farmers were never compensated when their land was sold, while others were on average paid “a fraction of the mean price authorities themselves received.”

Forced evictions have risen significantly in China, becoming the single greatest source of public discontent, Amnesty International said in a 2013 report.

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