Tensions Still High In Wukan

Hundreds of Chinese farmers take to the streets to protest the loss of their land.
2011-12-15
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Wukan residents stage a sit-in, Dec. 15, 2011.
Wukan residents stage a sit-in, Dec. 15, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Villager Li

Residents of Wukan village in southern China's Guangdong province turned out in angry protests once again on Thursday in defiance of the government, as the relatives of a dead protester rejected the results of an official autopsy.

Hundreds of protesters marched to government offices with banners, chanted slogans, and staged a sit-in on the street outside.

"The villagers of Wukan have been wronged," read a number of banners held by protesters outside the village Communist Party committee building.

Photos posted on the microblogging service Sina Weibo on Thursday showed rows of people sitting on the ground with several banners hung around a village street.

"We haven't seen any justice so far," said a villager surnamed Zhuang. "They have sold off our land, and they have detained and beaten up anyone who stood up to speak on behalf of the villagers."

Wukan residents are calling on Chinese leaders in Beijing to carry out an independent probe into allegations of corruption surrounding the sale of their farmland, for the election of local officials, and for answers about the death of one of their representatives in police custody last weekend.

"There are too many village officials," Zhuang said. "Using military force to suppress us isn't going to solve the problem."

Armed police have thrown a security cordon around the village since clashes flared earlier this month, as local residents fought back with makeshift weapons against armed police trying to take control of the area.

The standoff escalated with the death of Xue Jinbo, who "fell ill with a heart attack" on Sunday, his third day in detention, according to officials in the nearby city of Shanwei.

Xue was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. A representative of local farmers in the land dispute, he had been detained for inciting the villagers to protest, and villagers suspect he was beaten to death by police.

The Guangdong provincial procuratorate issued a statement on Tuesday following Xue's autopsy denying any signs of external injuries.

Autopsy rejected

Xue's son told RFA that the family utterly rejected the autopsy results.

"The people who saw the body all believe that the body had been subjected to powerful external force," he said. "He was definitely beaten; the injuries on his body were very clear to see."

He said the family was anxious to bring Xue's body back home, where he could be laid to rest.

"This is our most important demand right now; we are not thinking about anything else right now."

"My father must be buried so he can rest in peace."

Xue's daughter Xue Jianwan told local media she had viewed her father's body in a Shanwei city morgue, and that it was covered with injuries.

"When they took him out of the freezer, he didn't look like him any more," she said in an interview published in Hong Kong's Sun Times magazine on Thursday.

"My father's eyes were closed and his mouth was open," a sobbing Xue Jianwan was quoted as saying.

"He had injuries to his chest and he was black and blue all over," Xue told the magazine.

"He had blood in his nose and all over his chin."

Zhuang said the dead man's relatives were planning to parade his coffin in a funeral procession through the streets of Wukan on Saturday as a protest against his suspected beating to death.

"They kill people and then they make up something to say it was a heart attack that killed him," Zhuang said.

A second Wukan resident surnamed Zhang said security forces were still besieging the village, with road-blocks at every intersection.

"The mayor [of Shanwei] told the media that things were calm and peaceful in the village," Zhang said. "They even said the mood of [Xue's] family was stable."

"Actually they are full of pain," he said. "Old Mother Xue cried so hard she fainted when she heard the news."

"The officials are lying to the people," Zhang said.

Protests spread

Meanwhile, protests spread into nearby Longtou village this week, reigniting popular anger at similar disputes over the sale of local farmland.

A Longtou resident surnamed Li said local people had been so incensed at the military crackdown in Wukan, just seven kilometers away, that they had come out to block access to a construction site on what had once been their farmland.

"A large number of people went to the site [on Tuesday], and they demolished the surrounding wall," Li said.

"They were protesting against the illegal requisitioning of land and its sale by officials for private gain," he said.

"There has been no explanation for this," Li said. "Where has the money gone? The villagers are very unhappy."

He said Longtou villagers had been promised compensation for the plot of land, which was taken by the nearby Donghai township government  18 years ago.

"The person who stood up to speak for us was arrested, and there are three villagers who are being held who-knows-where," Li said.

"Now that the Wukan villagers' representative has been beaten to death, we are very worried."

Longtou residents say around half the farmland in the village has been sold off by local officials.

"To this day, no one knows where the money went," said a second Longtou resident, also surnamed Li.

"We took a petition to the Guangdong provincial government, but one old man was stabbed to death after he got back, so we didn't pursue it any further," he said.

Calls to government offices in nearby Lufeng city, Donghai township and Longtou village went unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Reported by Bi Zimo and Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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