Communist Party officials in Quang Ninh province, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Hanoi, allowed an Associated Press team to visit Kim Son village. The journalists were escorted by party officials in the village. They spoke to opponents in phone interviews
Officials insisted they had followed the rules when acquiring the land for the housing project, which they said is aimed at upgrading the small village to a township.
‘‘We are working together to build a more prosperous Kim Son,’’ said Vu Van Hoc, chairman of the local people’s committee.
He said the project used land that had been owned by 852 families, and that less than 10 percent of them disagreed with the government’s compensation rate of around $6 per square meter. He said just seven families were continuing to refuse the deal.
Villagers now allege the land has been resold for $310 per square meter. Hoc denied that, saying the land had yet to be sold.
He said he hoped that by depositing the money into bank accounts in the villagers’ names, ‘‘the issue could be resolved.’’ He dismissed the protest in late December as the work of ‘‘village extremists who had managed to persuade others’’ to join.
Video of the protest was recorded by people on their cellphones and posted on the Internet by dissident groups, which seek to capitalize on the public anger generated by the conflicts.
For two minutes, police cowered behind riot shields as young men hurled rocks and bits of concrete at them, but officers eventually regained control.
State media reported that 12 people were arrested. The police chief refused to identify them, or to say whether they were still in detention weeks later.
The local communist party bused in five villagers who had no complaints about the compensation package to speak to the visiting reporters and briefly showed them the land, on which a local company is already constructing roads and drainage. Unlike those protesting the compensation, the villagers appeared to have significant holdings elsewhere, or younger families with jobs.
Mac Thi Thuc, a 50-year-old who attended the protest, and whose family is among the seven holdouts, said authorities cut off irrigation to her land in 2010, making it impossible to farm. She said the investors in housing scheme should have negotiated with her directly, not the government.
‘‘Over the past two months, my husband and I have had no work,’’ she said. ‘‘We have been trying to look for jobs, but no one hired us because we are old. We have no money and we are going hungry and we don’t know how we can survive in the months ahead.’’
There is one potential source of funds: the money local officials deposited as compensation. Thuc says her family isn’t touching it.