China’s government says it will punish leaders of a four-month-old uprising in the fishing village of Wukan in Guangdong province, with a senior local official vowing to “strike hard,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
At the same time, officials sought to placate the villagers by announcing they would suspend a property project that’s at the heart of the unrest, the Associated Press reports. Villagers began demonstrating after the local government seized and sold off nearly $154 million worth of the villagers’ land.
Online, the word “Wukan” stopped returning search results. BBC reports that China’s Internet censors blocked the search term and that a message now appears saying: “According to relevant law, regulations and policies, search results for Wukan cannot be displayed.” When the village name is searched. Users of the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo, reported that Wukan returned no search results there, either.
As the stand-off between villagers and security forces continued, hundreds of villagers held a rally Thursday morning. Video uploaded by Voice of America shows protesters chanting as they hold up their fists:
Roads into the villages also remained close, a day after police sealed off Wukan and cut food supplies to the village. Residents said that supplies are running low and that police are also preventing villagers from fishing.
“Nobody dares to leave the village now. If you want to leave, you have to sign your name. We don’t know what that means,” Qiu, a villager, told the Associated Press Wednesday. “Most of us are just too scared to go out.”
The protests began in September, but the situation escalated earlier this week when a villager died in police custody of reported “cardiac failure.” His family and villagers say they believe he was beaten and then killed.
In a concession to villagers, the nearby Lufeng city government released a statement Wednesday saying arrested protesters would be allowed a visit with family members.
A video from Nanfang Daily, a official Guangdong Communist Party newspaper, shows a prisoner from Wukan meeting with his relatives under police supervision. The prisoner is reportedly asked whether he has been beaten and says he has not. The strange cuts in the video, however, made some viewers question whether it was a fake made by police:
The Financial Times reports that two children, ages 9 and 13, were also “badly injured” in the protests and that one may have died.
Land seizure has become a major problem in the Chinese countryside, and has increasingly drawn protests and clashes with local police. “But we’ve never seen anything like this before,”said a blog post on the Chinese English-language blog Shanghaiist, “where a town of 20,000 has staged a complete rebellion and wrested control from authorities.”
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