'Thousands' in Land Protest

Villagers say a local Chinese official rigged ballots and sold off their land in secret deals.

2011-12-05
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Rioters damage a police van in protests in Lufeng city in south China's Guangdong province, Sept. 22, 2011.
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At least 1,000 protesters in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are continuing with a daily protest over the sale of local farmland, after officials claimed that life in the town had returned to normal following mass demonstrations last month.

Thousands of villagers protested in Donghai township, near Guangdong's Lufeng city, last month, complaining about abuse of power by local officials and calling for fair elections.

Officials have said life has returned to normal since, a claim disputed by villagers on the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo on Monday.

"Contrary to propaganda sent out by the local government, that the "Wukan incident" is now finished, the village has seen several days of chaos once more, with roads blocked by large numbers of motorbikes, and large numbers of officials besieged in the village Party committee offices," according to a post on Sina Weibo.

"They are even calling for democratic elections," the post said.

"Yes," said one resident of Wukan when asked if unrest had indeed flared again in recent days. "There are a lot of people."

"I don't know exactly how many," he added. "But there are more than 1,000."

Calls to the Lufeng municipal government offices and Party committee propaganda department went unanswered during office hours on Monday.

An official who answered the phone at the Donghai township Party committee office said the authorities had sent people to "deal with things."

"Of course the government is concerned about this," the official said. "Yes [we have sent people]."

But he declined to comment further. "I don't know," he said repeatedly, when asked for further details.

Allegations of fraud

Wukan's farming community says it wants action taken 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 accuse him and other local officials of ballot-rigging so as to ensure grass-roots candidates could never win an election against him.

They said the committee has sold off large tracts of arable land in recent years, but that local residents have never benefited from these secret deals, which eventually led to the pollution of a local harbor, a lifeline for many fishing families.

"They have sold off all of our land," said a second Wukan resident, who declined to be named.

He said last month's demonstrations had come after attempts to make their case to municipal authorities in Lushan had yielded promises from city officials to address the protesters' complaints, but with no results.

"Nothing has been done," the second Wukan resident said. "The township government can't do anything about it ... The township government and the Lufeng Party secretary all have close links with business interests."

"The villagers protest about this every day now," he said. "There was [a protest] today; there is one every day. A lot of people protest every day."

"Not just 1,000 people," he added. "Several thousand."

Lufeng was the scene of one of the earliest peasant uprisings that fueled the Communist revolution in the 1920s.

According to local sources, the villagers twice petitioned the Lufeng city government in September over the problems but their grievances have not been addressed.

During November's mass demonstration, protesters carried banners bearing slogans such as “End Corruption,” “No to Dictatorship,” and “Human Rights for All.”

China already sees thousands of "mass incidents" across the country every year, according to official statistics, many of which are protests or sit-ins linked to forced evictions, allegations of corruption, and disputes over rural land sales.

Land acquisition for development, often resulting in lucrative property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by local communities across China every month, many of which escalate into clashes with police.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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