Police have arrested 13 people in the Guangdong village of Wukan after 85 days of villagers’ demonstrations calling for the release of their jailed leader.
In the early morning of Tuesday, around 4am, SWAT police broke down doors and arrested 13 people in the village, according to sources cited by Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
— Xinyan Yu (@xinyanyu) September 12, 2016
The villagers have continuously held protests after its former party branch secretary was detained on suspicion of graft in June. Before his trial last week, it was reported that villagers were planning to hold a four-day strike, despite warnings from authorities. Lin Zuluan, the village’s elected leader, was sentenced to over three years in jail for taking bribes and accepting bribes as a non-state employee. Lin pleaded guilty to the charges and said that he would not appeal.
Public security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas, and residents put up barricades and used bricks and gas cylinders to contend with police on Tuesday, Ming Pao reported.
Online footage from Tuesday morning appears to show police clashing with villagers, who were throwing bricks and forcing the police, who are in riot gear, to retreat.
The 13 people were arrested under suspicion of gathering a mob to disturb public order and traffic, the Lufeng police said on its official Weibo account.
“Since June 19… [they] have continued to use tactics like spreading rumours, making threats and insults, and coercion to confuse and incite, organising and blackmailing some villagers into illegal assembly,” the post said.
Patrick Poon, a researcher for the China region at Amnesty International, told HKFP there may be more arrests later today or in days to come.
“I have heard from some sources who are close to the villagers that there are some more arrests but it’s difficult to confirm the information given the current situation there,” he said.
The Lufeng Public Security Bureau’s account also posted a statement on Tuesday saying that it is targeting those who spread false information about Wukan. The village is gradually restoring its normal order of life, it said, but it found that some are spreading false information online and doctoring old photos to create the “so-called Wukan incident.”
“If the ones spreading false information don’t stop their illegal actions the police will target [them] according to the law.”
— Xinyan Yu (@xinyanyu) September 13, 2016
Wukan was the site of prolonged protests in 2011 over land grabs. After the protests, the village was permitted to elect its own leader. Lin Zuluan, one of the last remaining leaders of the 2011 protests, was planning a meeting of villagers and a petition at government buildings before his arrest in June.
After Lin’s trial, local officials told mainland media that they are working on solving the land use problems in the village.
Land that is not contested has all been registered, the authorities said, and they have set up a negotiation and mediation platform for land with ownership disputes. For land disputes that are not in accordance with the law, the local government has provided detailed explanations and hope for residents’ understanding, reports said.
“The authorities’ severe crackdown on the protests in Wukan may suggest that the local government is concerned the protests from Wukan might also lead to protests from neighbouring villages as land eviction also occurred in those villages,” Poon told HKFP.