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Protests in Wukan Dissolved After Weeks of Unrest

"Crime and Punishment" (dir. Zhao Liang)

Protests in Guangdong Province’s Wukan Village, which began months ago in response to government seizure of collectively-owned agricultural lands, have suspended their protests after a representative of Wukan Village met to negotiate with Guangdong Province government officials.

The New York Times‘s Edward Wong reports:

In the meeting, which lasted for more than an hour outside Wukan, two senior provincial officials spoke to Lin Zuluan, 65, one of the villagers’ main representatives. Mr. Lin said after the meeting that the officials had agreed to three conditions set by the protesters, including freeing several villagers who had been detained, though the issue of the land sales remained unresolved. “I was satisfied with how the meeting went,” Mr. Lin said. “Now they’ve opened up a new channel of communication, and it will help to build a closer relationship between the two sides.” On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Lin and other village leaders met to discuss their options and decided to call off the public protests and to reopen access to the village. It was unclear whether party officials who fled earlier would return and resume their jobs. After that conclave, the village leaders held a rally with more than 1,000 residents in a public square and told the audience about the new agreement. When the villagers then dispersed, they took down protest banners hanging up near the square.

The protests, which began in September, experienced a recent surge of intensity and conviction after the death of Xue Jinbo, a villager selected to negotiate with government officials. Earlier this week, Wukan villagers made known their intention to march to nearby Lufeng, a town whose police force may be involved in Mr. Xue’s alleged abduction and torture. The dual nature of the protests, designed to challenge both land seizure and perceived police brutality, has put a fine point on some of the most pervasive problems facing Chinese activists and society at large. These contentious issues, well-documented in films such as Ou Ning‘s Meishi Street and Zhao Liang‘s Crime and Punishment, persist despite both activist and journalistic attention.

Although news of the Wukan protests have been “all but banned from Chinese media and Internet sites,” photographs and updates on skirmishes between protestors and police have leaked throughout China on microblogging sites.

Again, Wong reports:

Posts on Chinese microblog services reported protests in three other villages in Shanwei Prefecture, which includes Wukan, apparently over other land disputes. Three people were arrested Sunday in Guangzhou, a Guangdong Province metropolis, after a protest in sympathy with the Wukan villagers. Another microblog post on Tuesday, with photographs, described a violent clash between police officers and thousands of people in Haimen, a township in Shantou, a major Pacific coast city about 90 miles from Wukan. People in Wukan said Wednesday morning that Haimen’s streets appeared quiet, but the riot police were still out in force.


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