The spate of illegal land seizures from ordinary farmers worsened last year, AFP reported, citing state media. The Ministry of Land and Resources said cases of illegal land use rose 17.3% to 130,000 in 2006, blaming local governments pursuing "blind economic growth". Factory owners, property developers and other industry chiefs were the main recipients of the land, usually for free or at ultra-cheap rates, said Zhang Xinbao, a director at the ministry. A total of 3,593 people, including two provincial-level government officials, were punished last year for their involvement in illegal land use. Land seizures are regarded as the source of the overwhelming majority of protests in China. According to Ministry of Public Security figures, there were 26,000 "mass incidents" reported in 2006, down from a reported 87,000 in 2005. It is unclear what constitutes a "mass incident".
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