Villagers Vow to Fight Like Wukan

Residents in southern China say they will use tactics from the rebel village to oppose a local quarry.

2012.03.13
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taomei-petition-305.jpg Dozens of Taomei villagers petition the Guangdong provincial government, Feb. 15, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Villager Chen

Activists in a village in southern Chinese province of Guangdong have vowed to continue protests over pollution they say is linked to local mining operations, following violent clashes last month amid allegations of official corruption.

Police in Taomei village, Huilai county have begun house-to-house calls in an attempt to gather evidence against two people they say led the protests, in which more than 10 villagers were injured in clashes with riot police, local sources said.

Villagers say they are putting intense pressure on villagers who complained about nearby quarrying operations to end their protests and sign an "agreement" with the government.

"The police have been coming to our village in the past few days," said a Taomei resident surnamed Chen. "They are investigating two people who they say were the leaders."

He said one of the suspected "ringleaders" was an elderly man in his seventies.

"We are very worried that the police will try to frame some of our village residents by saying that they incited other people to violence," Chen said.

taomei-head-400.jpg
A Taomei villager lies in hospital after receiving a head injury during a protest of the local quarry, Feb. 11, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Villager Chen

Mass demonstration

The mid-February protests were sparked by complaints of pollution linked to nearby quarrying operation, culminating in a mass demonstration outside the mining company's gates in which many villagers were beaten by riot police.

Chen said police had detained some of the mining company's employees but then quietly released most of them again without taking any action.

Currently, four mining company employees are under criminal detention, he said, but they were hired security personnel who beat villagers at the protests, not company bosses under investigation for pollution.

He said police had also tried to pressurize the villagers injured in the clashes to sign statements about the event, but many had refused.

A second villager surnamed Xu said local officials had refused to respond to repeated requests by local residents to see a copy of the mining company's license documents.

He said local people suspected the mining company of being in cahoots with local officials, and that the quarrying operations were illegal and damaging people's health.

Rebel tactics

He called on higher levels of government to investigate and punish any official corruption, or else the villagers might adopt similar tactics to those used by the rebel village of Wukan, which recently held new elections for local leaders after a provincial government probe upheld their complaints of corrupt dealings on its village committee.

"We hope that we too can have a fair election, and choose our own village officials," Xu said.

"We are hopeful that this can happen because it has already happened elsewhere," he said. "Their protests were successful, but ours are still in progress."

Repeated calls to the Taomei village committee offices went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

An employee who answered the phone at the nearby Shenkuang township police station declined to comment on the case, saying it involved individual privacy.

"Normally we would not supply information of this kind because the case involves the privacy of an individual," the employee said.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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