More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong Saturday to protest a violent crackdown on protesters during tense clashes this week in the rebel Chinese village of Wukan.

wukan hong kong protest
Photo: RFA.

The 13,000-strong fishing village in southern Guangdong province became a symbol of resistance against corruption in 2011 after a mass uprising over land grabs propelled it onto global front pages and led to landmark elections.

Wukan was back in the headlines after Lin Zulian, who played a key role in the 2011 protests, was detained in June and sentenced to three years in prison last week, triggering protests.

Chinese authorities on Tuesday said they had detained 13 residents for “disturbing public order”, which set off a fresh round of protests.

Bloodied villagers threw bricks and stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to local media reports.

Law enforcement officers were “hitting the villagers, even the old”, wrote one resident, Zou Shaobing, on a micro-blog.

It is important for Hong Kong to show solidarity for Wukan, organisers said of the vigil, which was staged just outside China‘s representative office in the city.

“Today we have Wukan, tomorrow this sort of violence may occur in Hong Kong,” lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki told the 100-strong crowd, who chanted “release Lin Zulian and all Wukan villagers”.

Veteran pro-democracy protester Lee Cheuk-yan said the violence deployed in Wukan was not so different from the crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Hundreds — by some estimates more than a thousand — died after the Communist Party sent tanks to crush demonstrations in the square in the heart of the nation’s capital, where student-led protesters had staged a peaceful seven-week sit-in to demand democratic reforms.

“This Wukan incident serves as a reminder to our youth that China‘s nature has not changed,” Lee told the crowd, as people tied black ribbons to the metal fences surrounding the Chinese liaison office.

“We are coming out because we are worried,” office clerk Jade Lee, 53, told AFP.

Hong Kong was returned from Britain to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal that guaranteed its freedoms for 50 years, but there are fears those liberties are being eroded.

The city saw mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014, which failed to win concessions on political reform, leading to the emergence of a slew of new parties and figures demanding greater autonomy from Beijing.

agence france presse

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.