Chinese police arrest over a dozen villagers in Wukan amid clashes

Authorities have raided homes and arrested at least 13 people in a remote village in southern China amid protests over the recent jailing of its elected chief, witnesses said Tuesday. 

Villagers on social media reported that hundreds of police had used tear gas and rubber bullets to make the arrests in Wukan, Guangdong province, overnight, five years after an uprising against corruption in the same village drew international attention.

Following the arrests, villagers clashed violently with police, according to videos and comments posted on social media.  

"The police broke into the village and arrested people at 4 am ... villagers set up a barricade this morning, and threw bricks and gas tanks to confront the police," wrote a villager going by the alias Apell on the Chinese microblogging website Weibo. 

"The government said it was an illegal gathering! But it is a legitimate march.  You really can't believe what the government says," wrote another villager named Yao Wei on Weibo. 

The village is now under lockdown, with anyone leaving or entering having to go through police ID checks, the South China Morning Post reported. 

The arrests came after village chief Lin Zuluan, who had led protests against land grabs, was sentenced to over three years in prison last Thursday for taking bribes.

The 13 arrested had allegedly "incited illegal assemblies among the villagers in Wukan to disrupt public order and traffic flows since June 19," the official Xinhua news agency cited local authorities as saying.

"Their behaviour has severely affected local life and production and exerted a bad influence.

"Police have therefore arrested the 13 according to law, in an effort to safeguard the interest of the masses and restore order," the public security bureau of Lufeng City said. 

At the time of Lin's detention in June, he was preparing to make a speech to the village general assembly on unresolved land disputes. 

In 2011, Lin was a leader of protests that led to clashes with police over property development and alleged illegal evictions.

The land dispute started after a livestock company and a property developer announced plans to build on land bought from the local government. Villagers said they still owned the land and were disappointed by the government's failures.

The protests escalated after the death of another protest leader, Xue Jinbo, on December 11, 2011, while in police custody.

Some of the seized land had been returned, but some places remained disputed, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing the mayor of Shanwei in Guangdong, where Wukan is located. 

Land protests have become common across China in recent years as a growing number of rural residents fight alleged corruption and secret land deals by local officials.

Last update: Tue, 13/09/2016 - 12:36

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