Chinese protest over tree scam

Hundreds of people in Beijing scuffled with police outside a government office, demanding help in recovering money from a get-rich-quick scheme involving tree plantations to combat desertification in Inner Mongolia, Reuters reported.


Lured by promises of huge returns within eight years, more than 30,000 investors, mostly retirees, put 1.3 billion yuan (US$190 million) into a company’s tree-planting scheme in the arid northern region of Inner Mongolia. 


The project, under which some farmers transferred their land to the company for the plantations, was exposed as a failed pyramid scheme, state media reported earlier this year. The scheme has shone a spotlight on China’s recent rural reforms, allowing farmers to transfer their land-use rights. 


Protesters complained that the trees on the transferred land in Inner Mongolia had been left to die after the company involved was investigated and its assets seized. "It was supposed to green the desert," said a Beijing resident who lost about 100,000 yuan (US$14,705) in the scheme.  "The company planted about 720,000 mu [48,000 hectares], but about 40% died."  


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