Monday, December 19, 2011

Protest in Wukan

A period of demonstration and protest in the Chinese village of Wukan has caught the attention of world media in the past several weeks (link, link). The village is in Guangdong, the dynamic coastal province. The demonstrations began in September against major land seizures by local government in alignment with developers, and became more intense in the past week when leader Xue Jinbo died in police custody. (Here is a good Wikipedia article on the village.) Land seizures seem to be the most volatile issue in China today, producing a large proportion of the roughly 90,000 civil disturbances the country currently faces a year.

Analysts are interested in probing the causes and dynamics of protest and resistance in contemporary China, including C. K. Lee (Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt) and Kevin O’Brien (Rightful Resistance in Rural China). Here, though, it may also be interesting to compare the current situation with the occurrence of similar incidents during the Qing Dynasty.

Fortunately, it is possible to do so on the basis of a recent relevant study. Ho-Fung Hung’s recent Protest with Chinese Characteristics: Demonstrations, Riots, and Petitions in the Mid-Qing Dynasty addresses exactly this issue in historical context. He looks at the period 1740-1839 and finds that the character of protest and resistance varied throughout the period. This is the early modernization period of Chinese history, and Hung believes that the subject of popular unrest has been overlooked in this period. The grasp of the central power of the state increased during this period, and it also represented a major advance in commercialization of Chinese society.

More...


In southern-China, the village of Wukan continued its open revolt against local authorities. Thousands of villagers gathered to shout slogans calling for the return of farmland they say has been illegally confiscated.

Press TV's Steven Ribet reports from Beijing.


As we've been telling you this week, tens of thousands of villagers are protesting in Wukan, in Guangdong Province. Now the situation has become a standoff as villagers have kicked out both local officials and police. That came after the suspicious death of one villager in police custody. Here's the latest.

The over twenty-thousand residents of the village of Wukan in south China's Guangdong Province have expelled all local Communist Party authorities, including police, and blocked road access to the village.

The British newspaper The Telegraph was able to get a journalist on the ground in Wukan on Tuesday. Malcom Moore called the current incident the first time on record that the Party has "lost all control" in a situation of "open revolt." This marks the latest escalation in an ongoing confrontation between villagers and local Communist Party officials they've called corrupt and abusive.

For three months, Wukan residents have been staging occasional large-scale protests against a longstanding series of abuses committed by local Party officials. The villagers' biggest grievance was corrupt officials profiting from illegally selling the villagers' land.

The current intensified protest, including the expelling of all police and officials, came after the death in Party custody of Xue Jinbo. He was a Wukan resident who had served as a negotiator with authorities. Party officials claim Xue died of "cardiac failure." But Xue's family say there was evidence of torture on his body, including broken thumbs and bruises.

By Monday, locals had stopped an attempt by hundreds of police and security personnel to enter Wukan. Those forces retreated to a backup location three miles distant, and are now blocking all food and water from entering the town.

As of now, at the fifth day of what some are calling a rebellion, police remain blocked from entering, and some townspeople are making comments suggesting that the confrontation has become about more than just land seizures.

The Telegraph quoted one villager as saying "We are not sleeping. A hundred men are keeping watch. We do not know what the government's next move will be, but we know we cannot trust them ever again."

The situation in Wukan remains uncertain. Other media have managed to enter the village. But anything about Wukan is being quickly censored on the Chinese internet.

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