Wukan Unrest Spreads to Neighboring Village

December 17, 2011 11:38 pm Last Updated: December 22, 2011 4:18 am
An obituary for Xue Jinbo
An obituary for Xue Jinbo, the Wukan village representative who died in police custody on Dec 11, posted on the Internet by fellow villagers on Dec. 16, 2011. His death caused more protests and police crackdowns. (Internet photo)

The showdown between villagers and local officials in the locked-down village of Wukan, Lufeng City, in China’s southeastern Guangdong Province, inspired a neighboring village to also protest.

Over a thousand residents in nearby Longtou Village took to the streets on Dec. 13 to protest what they regard as illegal government land sales, according to Chinese reports.

According to NTD, a New York-based Chinese broadcaster, residents of Longtou tore down fences surrounding farmland illegally occupied by land developers, and brought placards protest corrupt officials.

Wukan villagers have also continued their own protests. On Dec. 16, defiant villagers held a symbolic funeral with an empty coffin for their village representative who died in police custody.

For the last three months, Wukan villagers have been holding repeated large-scale protests against corruption and land grabs, and are now in a standoff with authorities. Since Dec. 14, the village has been under a police blockade.

Tensions escalated after Xue Jinbo, a village representative, died in police custody on Dec. 11, and authorities refused to release the body to his family.

Wukan villagers demand the release of Xue Jinbo's body

A Twitter post at 10 a.m. on Dec. 16 confirmed that the memorial for Xue was held. “Wukan villagers held a funeral for Mr. Xue Jinbo today, almost everyone in the village attended,” the post said.

Xue was one of five village representatives who had been arrested on Dec. 9 and allegedly tortured. Xue’s family went to the hospital to claim the body on the evening of Dec. 12 and found bruises all over, the head misshapen and the face swollen, fingernails missing, and a number of bones fractured. The family was prevented from taking the body and from taking pictures.

After Xue’s death authorities said they had conducted an independent investigation and autopsy, and found “no serious wounds.”

On Dec. 14, over 8,000 villagers marched to demand that the central government investigate the land disputes and the collusion between officials and land developers to defraud villagers.

They also demanded that Xue’s body be returned to his family. That’s when police blocked all exits and entrances to the village, cutting off food, water, and power, and controlling the flow of people in and out of the village.

Unconfirmed reports also said that people in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province where Wukan village is located, also took to the streets on Dec. 14 to express their support for Wukan. Police ripped away their signs, telling people they were engaging in antigovernment activity.

Many people also voiced their support for Wukan villagers on the Internet. After news of the protests was blocked on Sina and QQ, bloggers turned to Twitter.

Guangdong Province authorities have used various strategies in an attempt to tackle the Wukan protests after the conflict erupted in September, the NTD report said.

They first removed the village officials in response to the villagers’ demands. Later they blamed “foreign antagonistic forces” for instigating the protests. They then detained the village representatives, and finally they sent in the armed police to seal off the village.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, villagers again took to the streets in large numbers. They gathered at a square outside a local temple to shout slogans calling for the return of their farmland, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

Since the blockade, food is being smuggled into Wukan from neighboring villages, a villager told AP on the phone. Villagers also set up their own barricades, made of tree trunks, to keep police out, and men are “guarding the barricades and patrolling the village roads, sometimes armed with wooden clubs,” the man said.