The ruling Chinese Communist Party's powerful propaganda department has issued a directive to all media outlets and websites ordering them to delete news stories, photos and video of the protests, which were sparked by the arrest of Lin Zuluan, a former village chief who spearheaded earlier protests over lost farmland in 2011.
"Regarding former village committee chief of Wukan, Guangdong, Lin Zuluan being investigated and admitting his guilt, websites are strictly prohibited from releasing or republishing any news, photos, video, or information related to the mass incident in the village," a June 21 leaked propaganda directive, translated by the U.S.-based China Digital Times website, said.
"All websites are to strictly control related commentary, firmly punish the accounts of those who maliciously distribute information, and report progress to superiors," the order said.
The ban comes as authorities on the ground in Wukan declared all reporting in Wukan to be "illegal."
A leaked internal document from the propaganda department of the Guangdong provincial government accused overseas media outlets including Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, CNN, the BBC and the Associated Press of "fabricating rumors" from the scene.
And an official from Lufeng city, which administers Wukan but was overruled by provincial authorities during the 2011 protests, accused Apple Daily and other media of "directing, planning and inciting" the recent protests.
Fourth day of protests
Protests in Wukan on Wednesday entered their fourth day following Lin's detention in a surprise raid on his home by armed police last Friday.
Tensions remain high as riot police encircled the village, where recent demonstrations have reignited a bitter land dispute that saw days of street protests and clashes in 2011.
"It's very hard to get into the village now, because they are stopping anyone from coming in, and also from leaving," a Wukan resident surnamed Chen told RFA on Wednesday.
"They won't even let you top up your cell phone credit," he said. "There are no more top-up cards on sale here."
Lin's grandson Lin Liyi was also detained on Monday, before being released 12 hours later after speaking to overseas journalists who have been blamed by local officials for "inciting, planning and directing" the protests in Wukan.
Residents of Wukan, a fishing village that lost much of its land to private development under the rule of its former party secretary, rejected Lin's televised "confession" to bribery, with around 1,000 people taking to the streets on Wednesday despite of sweltering heat, local sources said.
Photos taken by eyewitnesses and sent to RFA showed dozens of primary school children waving banners on the village streets.
Public wants more details
Fujian-based online commentator Zhuang Lei said many Chinese people want to know more—not less—detail about what’s going on in Wukan.
"As citizens, we want fairness, justice and transparency to prevail in the Wukan incident," Zhuang said. "These fellow citizens of ours have already suffered enough, and we feel a great deal of compassion for them."
"But now the authorities have clamped down so hard on it that we have no way of finding out what's going on," he said. "If we have got something wrong, then the official media ought to clarify the situation and provide more information, not less."
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said there is scant news in the Chinese media after a concerted ideological campaign launched by President Xi Jinping earlier this year, and amid an ever-widening crackdown on anyone who criticizes the government.
"News has been eradicated," Hu said, drawing parallels with Nazi-era Germany. "It's all just propaganda now."
"The role of the media in China has been defined by, distorted by, its role as the mouthpiece of the party," he said.
Taking to the streets
Lin was detained ahead of a planned public meeting to discuss further protests over farmland which has yet to be returned to local residents despite promises made following clashes in 2011.
Some 3,000 local residents took to the streets last Sunday, waving banners and signing petitions for his release, as well as continuing the campaign for the return of their lost land.
Wukan residents say the authorities have still made no move to restore land sold out from under the villagers by the previous party secretary, who was charged with corruption and removed from his post in 2011.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.