Thousands of villagers protested Monday in southern China’s Guangdong province against abuse of power by local officials and called for fair elections, according to eyewitnesses.
The protest occurred in Lufeng city, where one of the earliest peasant uprisings fueled the Communist revolution in the 1920s.
Ironically, during Monday’s demonstration, local peasants who once supported the Chinese Communist Party, unfurled slogans such as “End Corruption,” “No to Dictatorship,” and “Human Rights for All.”
The protesters were from Wukan village in Donghai township, and numbered several thousands, eyewitnesses said.
The mass demonstration in Guangdong province, China's industrial heartland, came two months after riots over similar problems led to protesters attacking a police station and ransacking vehicles.
On Monday, the people first marched to the Lufeng city government office, and then held a sit-in protest there.
The protesters were particularly infuriated over alleged corruption and abuse of power by the village Communist party chief Xue Chang, who has occupied the post for more than 40 years.
They charged that every year, when local elections were held, the party chief together with village chiefs would fabricate ballots in order to keep their grip on power.
Over the years, large tracts of arable land in the village were sold, but the peasants had never benefited from these secret deals, the protesters said.
The loss of arable land led to pollution of a local harbor, the lifeline for many village fisherfolk, they said.
“Most people in our village went to the rally. Thousands of us,” said a villager at the protest scene, giving his surname as Wu.
A resident in Donghai said, “If you come over to talk to people here, you will know how serious the corruption is.”
Photos taken from the gathering showed colorful banners and placards with slogans such as “End Corruption,” “No to Dictatorship,” “Stop Secret Deal between Official and Developer,” “Return my Fields,” and “Polluting Environment is Crime.”
Villagers said the acting mayor of Lufeng city, Qiu Jinxiong, came out to meet the protesters, promising an investigation into their grievances. Then the protesters dispersed peacefully.
According to local sources, the villagers twice petitioned the Lufeng city government in September over the problems but their grievances have not been addressed.
An official at the Donghai township confirmed the protests but refused to give details.
Guangdong is home to tens of millions of migrant workers who toil in the province's factories.
Last Thursday, more than 7,000 workers went on strike at a factory in the province that makes New Balance, Adidas and Nike shoes, clashing with police in a protest over layoffs and wage cuts, a rights group said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.