A Chinese village under siege after an almost unheard uprising against Communist Party officials has warned that it will march on the area’s main administrative town if the body of one of the village’s protest leaders isn’t returned.
The revolt broke out in Wukan after local officials announced that Xue Jinbo, one of the leaders of a protest against an official land grab, had died in police custody. Reports from the fishing village of about 20,000 people suggested locals had chased out officials and established their own roadblocks, guarding entrances to stop security forces detaining more residents or trying to re-establish the government’s control over the area.
The Telegraph reported that officials responded by holding the village to ransom. “[O]fficials have ratcheted up pressure on the rebel village…by allegedly ransoming four men who were seized from the village last week,” it reported.
Police are also said to have created a blockade in an effort to starve out the villagers.
“The party-state has become so reliant on enforcing a kind of ‘rigid’ stability that involves buying off anyone who can be bought off with economic goods, and crushing those who can’t,” Kelley Currie, a political reform specialist at the Project 2049 Institute, told The Diplomat.
“Increasingly, however, the costs of buying people off are getting out of reach of local municipalities and they are finding that no matter how many police they have, it’s not enough when the whole town decides to stand up against the authorities or when the wholly inappropriate, unnecessary abuse of some citizen gets broadcast via social media.”
According to The Telegraph, whose correspondent Peter Simpson is in Wukan, the villagers yesterday “staged a practice march around the small maze of streets after another emotional rally…which included a memorial for Xue.”
“All answered the call to donate small amounts of money to help pay for the rice-run and help feed the poorer families who are starting to feel the pinch as supplies dry up due a land and sea blockade by the local government,” Simpson said.
The Telegraph appears to have been the first Western media outlet on the scene, but with others having now arrived on the scene, the village could be benefitting from something of a shield, with officials likely wary of trying to end the siege with brute force. In the meantime, the town has established its own media center and foreign affairs office and media centre. And, depite the blockade, they have reportedly been able to smuggle in adequate amounts of rice and other staples.
The government for its part has been sending some mixed signals. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the government has said it will “strike hard” and punish the leaders of the uprising.
However, the Washington Post also notes that officials have “sought to placate the villagers” by announcing they will suspend the property project that sparked the unrest in the first place.