Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back
December 13, 2011
For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.
The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.
Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.
The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.
Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.
But on Tuesday The Daily Telegraph managed to gain access through a tight security cordon and witnessed the new reality in this coastal village.
Thousands of Wukan’s residents, incensed at the death of one of their leaders in police custody, gathered for a second day in front of a triple-roofed pagoda that serves as the village hall.
For five hours they sat on long benches, chanting, punching the air in unison and working themselves into a fury.
At the end of the day, a fifteen minute period of mourning for their fallen villager saw the crowd convulsed in sobs and wailing for revenge against the local government.
“Return the body! Return our brother! Return our farmland! Wukan has been wronged! Blood debt must be paid! Where is justice?” the crowd screamed out.
Wukan’s troubles began in September, when the villagers’ collective patience snapped at an attempt to take away their land and sell it to property developers.
“Almost all of our land has been taken away from us since the 1990s but we were relaxed about it before because we made our money from fishing,” said Yang Semao, one of the village elders. “Now, with inflation rising, we realise we should grow more food and that the land has a high value.”
Thousands of villagers stormed the local government offices, chasing out the party secretary who had governed Wukan for three decades. In response, riot police flooded the village, beating men, women and children indiscriminately, according to the villagers.
In the aftermath, the local government tried to soothe the bruised villagers, asking them to appoint 13 of their own to mediate between the two sides – a move which was praised. But after anger bubbled over again local officials hatched another plan to bring the rebellious village back under control. Last Friday, at 11.45 in the morning, four minibuses without license plates drove into Wukan and a team of men in plain clothes seized five of the village’s 13 representatives from a roadside restaurant.
A second attack came at 4am on Sunday morning, when a thousand armed police approached the entrance to the village.
“We had a team of 20 people watching out, and they saw the police searchlights. We had blocked the road with fallen trees to buy us time,” said Chen Xidong, a 23 year old. “They banged the warning drum and the entire village ran to block the police.”
Read More: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8954315/Inside-Wukan-the-Chinese-village-that-fought-back.html
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Chinese police besiege town and cut of food supplies in bid to quell riots 12 Dec 2011