Wukan Protests End
The protests that resulted in the effective takeover of a Chinese fishing village by protesters upset with their local government have come to an end:
WUKAN, China — Villagers who had carried out a prominent protest against what they called land seizures by officials and business people agreed on Wednesday to halt their demonstrations after more than 10 days of keeping Communist Party authorities out of their village. The protests ended after a leader of the villagers met on Wednesday morning with senior officials from coastal Guangdong Province in southern China.
The provincial officials agreed to the meeting after residents here threatened to march on Wednesday to government offices in the nearby city of Lufeng. 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 standoff between the village and outside authorities began when protesters furious over word of Mr. Xue’s death mobbed the headquarters of Wukan’s village committee. The last of the committee’s nine members fled after thousands of protesters beat back an effort by the local police to retake the village.
The villagers — once numbering 13,000, but now down to about 6,000, one protester said — have set up their own governing body and issued demands that their land be returned and that a new village committee be democratically elected.
Outside authorities responded by detaining two Wukan officials — the village Communist Party secretary, Xue Chang, and the head of the village administrative committee, Chun Shunyi — for interrogation by the party’s disciplinary officials. The action is tantamount to arrest.
Official statements also say that roughly 67 acres of village land, a tiny fraction of the amount sold, has been recovered. The reports do not indicate what was done with the property.
It’s unclear exactly what the villagers got out of this deal, but there’s at least some indication that news of the protests had leaked to other parts of China:
News of the Wukan protest has been all but banned from the Chinese media and Internet sites. But there were indications that word of the dispute was nevertheless spreading. 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.
The Internet posts stated that the Shantou demonstrators, some of whom were hospitalized, were protesting plans to build a power plant, fearing that it would add to pollution and damage the local fishing industry. Other microblog reports told of related protests in two nearby villages.
Whether this will spread or not remains to be seen, but the seemingly peaceful end of the Wukan demonstrations may dampen the fervor elsewhere.