China: A Guangdong Village on the Verge of a Brutal Crackdown

Since September 2011, hundreds of villagers from Wukan village in Guangdong's Lufeng city have begun demonstrating against illegal land acquisition and last week, armed police entered the village and arrested a number of protest organizers.

Yesterday, it was revealed that a leader of the protesting villagers, Xue Jinbo, was found dead in a police detention center three days after his arrest. Police claimed that he had a heart attack, but his family say Xue was tortured to death. While the villagers are outraged by the suspected murder of Xue and are prepared to carry on struggles with local authorities, many concerned netizens worry that the incident will develop into bloody repression.

According to reports from Hong Kong newspapers, the piece of collective land involved is worth more than RMB 700 million. On September 22, Hong Kong developer Chan Man Ching, along with a large number of local gangsters, forcibly entered the village and beat up the protestors. Thousands of villagers then surrounded the Lufeng county government building on November 21, and local authorities promised villagers that the dispute would be settled village representatives re-elected within 15 days. Below is a short documentary produced by China Sun TV on the Wukan villagers’ protests:

However, when the deadline arrive, instead of fulfilling its promise, the local government took action to arrest protest organizers beginning December 3. In response, the villagers placed the village Communist Party Committee office under siege on December 5. On December 10, thousands of villagers blocked the road to the village upon receiving the news that the police would take action in making widespread arrests.

Armed police surrounded the village

Xue Jinbo's photo via the Chinese Human Rights Defenders website

Twitter user @milpitas95035 reported on the situation [zh]:


Around 4:30 am today (December 11) in Wukan village in Lufeng county, Guangdong province, more than a thousand armed police officers tried to enter the village and arrest villagers. Upon receiving the news, villagers alerted each other, and more than 5,000 of them then took their rods and confronted police. In the process, police fired more than 50 canisters of tear gas. The villagers were forced to retreat at around 7 am, following which the police also left. People heard that there were demonstrations in other surrounding towns.

News of Xue Jinbo's death surfaced at this time. Twitter user @fumanduo helped villagers spread the news via Twitter [zh]:


[Wukan Concern] Sources from the villagers: Xue Jinbo's body is now at the Hai Feng Funeral Parlor. Villagers found many scars on Xu's body and authorities have rejected Xue's family's demand to reclaim Xue's body. Now a large number of police officers are stationed outside the village and it is very difficult for the villagers to leave. Villagers are having meeting, they plan to break the police blockade and in another attempt to petition their case.

After the meeting, villagers urged friends and extended family members from Lufeng currently away from the village to come home and protect their homeland. Via @fumanduo [zh]:


Wukan residents are now waiting for the police to make arrests. The villagers urge all people from Lufeng to return home to protect their family and relatives.

Villagers also redecorated the village committee building into a funeral parlor (via @yoke1007):

The suspected murder of Xue makes Beijing reporter Liu Xiannan very pessimistic [zh] about the development of the Wukan incident:


The death of Xue Jinbo signifies the ultimate defeat of rational protest and defense of people's rights. Rational or not, when confronted with a dictator, there is no way out.

Foreign conspiracy theory again!

Indeed, local media reports are either downplaying the Wukan incident or interpreting it as foreign conspiracy. One bitter peasant writing on Sina Weibo exclaims [zh]:


The Lufeng government has cut our Internet connections and our food supply… What have we done to deserve this? The village government has taken RMB 4.8 bln from the Wukan villagers and the provincial government just sits there and watches ten thousand people starve to death? Those who have left home for work cannot return home? What kind of society is this? The media only listens to the Shanwei government's press releases. Please come to Wukan to see for yourself. Southern Metropolis Daily, Guangzhou Daily, Yangcheng Evening News, please do not cheat people with fake news.

Twitter user @pangjiaoming is very angry that Guangdong authority has labelled the incident as foreign conspiracy [zh]:


Reading the news in bed on my iPad. So surprised to find out that Guangdong authorities claim that there was overseas intervention in the Wukan incident. What kind of overseas intervention are they talking about? Democracy is a trend! The three demands of Democracy, Rights and Livelihood made by Sun Yatsen have still not been fulfilled. Please return China back to the people and kick out the real foreign power—the Communists—out of the Chinese territory.

Writer He Sanwei from Sina Weibo points out [zh]:


Even if there is foreign intervention, it's not an unforivable sin. We have to look into the nature of the incident. We also send our troops overseas to intervene, and that's for peace, isn't it? Our current government is also an establishment of foreign power, isn't it? Today the United Nations’ covenants on Human and Political Rights are all initiated by foreign powers, and isn't China a member of United Nations? Shanwei Party Secretary Zhen Yanxiong, what do you have to say about this?

Political news commentator Zhu Zhiyong rightly points out [zh] that the rhetoric of “foreign intervention” is to justify a brutal crackdown:


The mass incident in Lufeng has seen open demand calling for the end of dictatorship. This is the first mass incident that has put forward a political agenda. The conspiracy theory is to justify arrest actions. Shanwei City Party Secretary Zheng Yanxiong stresses that overseas power have intervened in the incident. The Chinese public should demand the truth and a clear explanation. Which country? What kind of power? How? By what means? Zheng Yanxiong, please give us an answer!


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