Journalists have reportedly been banned from the village of Wukan, where a violent standoff occurred between police and villagers on Tuesday.
Armed police broke into homes in the Guangdong village early hours of Tuesday to arrest 13 people. According to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, the police stationed themselves in a square in the village where villagers usually meet for protests. A clash then broke out between the police and villagers, some of whom beat gongs to call others to join.
Footage shot by villagers and acquired by HKFP shows residents carrying red flags and wearing motorcycle helmets. Some threw bricks and used metal gas cylinders to beat police into retreat. The police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Wukan village was the site of widespread demonstrations over land grabs in 2011, which led to villagers being allowed to elect their own leaders. One of the protest leaders, Lin Zuluan, served as the party branch secretary of the village until he was arrested for graft in June. He had been planning to lead villagers in demonstrations before his arrest. He was sentenced to over three years in jail last week. After Lin’s arrest, villagers demonstrated in the village for 85 days, calling for his release.
A video clip apparently filmed in a Lufeng police station Tuesday evening showed dozens of villagers inside the station sitting on the floor, some with their hands tied up and possessions such as belts and cell phones on the floor. Some schoolchildren wearing uniforms were seen in the group. Another clip showed medical personnel tending to injured people in the station. It is unclear whether the protesters had been arrested or charged.
Five are still wanted by police, who are offering RMB 100,000 (HK$116,259) for tips-offs and warning that they will hold responsible those hiding the fugitives.
The BBC’s China correspondent, Stephen McDonell, tweeted that foreign journalists were not allowed near Wukan.
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) September 13, 2016
Ten? plain clothes police following us. About to receive lecture from govt official re why regulations stop us entering Wukan lockdown zone
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) September 14, 2016
The authorities have sealed off roads entering the village, according to reports. Residents told US-backed Radio Free Asia that the internet and other communications in the village have been cut off.
Meanwhile, Southern Daily, a Guangdong government paper, reported on the Lufeng Public Security Bureau’s post on Weibo, which said the police are targeting those who are spreading false information about Wukan. Order is returning to the village, it said, but it found that some are spreading “false information” online and doctoring old photos to create a “so-called Wukan incident.”
Patrick Poon, researcher for the China region at Amnesty International, told HKFP on Tuesday: “The Lufeng public security’s way of releasing information on Weibo indicates a common tactics used by mainland authorities to control information released to the public as we saw in the recent trials of lawyer Zhou Shifeng and the other three activists last month.”
Zhou Shifeng is a founder of a law firm known for taking sensitive cases who was sentenced to seven years in jail last month.
“It actually proves how repressive the situation is as the government is now using Weibo as the only channel to release information about what happened in Wukan,” Poon added.
The Southern Daily also refuted rumours reported in Hong Kong media that a woman in her 80s had died after she was hit by rubber bullets and brought to the hospital. It cited a post on Lufengshi.net, an online forum for Lufeng city, which oversees Wukan. A post accusing the jailed Wukan chief of taking bribes was posted on the same site in June.
On Tuesday, a journalist from the site posted on the forum that they had interviewed an 83-year-old woman in the hospital named Qian Xiuxiang, who had undergone surgery to remove a foreign object. The object seemed to be shrapnel from the type of homemade bombs that fishermen use, the post said.
The Hong Kong Alliance is planning a march on Wednesday at 1pm to the China Liaison Office to protest the violent crackdown on Wukan villagers and to call for the release of the detained villagers and Lin Zuluan.