Crude Fight

With his nylon socks and cigarette pinched between index finger and thumb, Liu looks like any other small-fry entrepreneur in China's hinterland. Yet for two reasons, he is different. First, his business is oil. Second, he's running from the police. Liu, who declines to reveal his full name, changes his cell-phone number weekly and won't pass two nights in the same bed. His fugitive life is shared by dozens of other wildcat oilmen in northern China's Shaanxi province, where independent drillers are fighting for compensation after the government seized their wells and detained several of those who complained. "I'm in debt...

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