Chinese villagers describe police
beatings in 'wild crackdown' on protest
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[September 14, 2016]
By James Pomfret
WUKAN, China (Reuters) - Residents of a
southern Chinese village once seen as a cradle of grassroots democracy
were in shock on Wednesday after a "wild crackdown" by police in clashes
with protesters which they said led to about 70 people being detained.
Hong Kong rights activists fear Tuesday's violence marks a last-ditch
push to silence Wukan, a fishing village in the province of Guangdong,
which received international attention when a 2011 uprising over land
grabs forced authorities to back down and grant local direct elections.
"Most people have been scared badly," said a villager named Chen.
"...This time it was a wild crackdown. They went after everyone, chasing
them up into their houses, beating people."
As she spoke, peeking nervously from behind curtains in her home, scores
of riot and security police tightened a cordon around Wukan.
Violence flared in the 10,000-strong hamlet early on Tuesday as police
launched pre-dawn raids on homes seeking leaders of protests that had
rumbled since June after the arrest of a popular leader.
Village chief Lin Zuluan, one of the last of the 2011 protest leaders to
remain in office, was jailed this month for three years on graft and
Villagers pelted police with bricks as they advanced with shields,
batons and helmets, firing rubber bullets and using tear gas. Some
residents suffered wounds to their legs, mobile phone footage seen by
Many said the violence was worse than 2011, when the village was locked
down for several months.
While low-level democratic experiments have been tried in villages
across China, Wukan's took place in the glare of both domestic and
international publicity - and marked a rare moment when Communist Party
officials backed down in the face of protest.
WRISTS BOUND WITH NYLON
Beijing leaders are fearful of growing calls for democracy and losing
their grip on power. Weeks of "umbrella revolution" pro-democracy
protests in Hong Kong, to the southwest of Wukan, in late 2014 presented
Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges in decades.
[to top of second column]
People gather at the temple after Tuesday's clashes between security
forces and protesters in Wukan, Guangdong province, China, September
14, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
According to the mobile phone footage seen by Reuters, elderly
villagers and youngsters in school uniforms were among those
detained on Tuesday. Three rows of villagers could be seen in the
police station, their wrists bound with white nylon zipcords.
Blue tear gas cartridges could still be seen strewn in the narrow
alleyways, with black burn marks etched on to the concrete.
"The whole village hasnít done anything illegal, we just want old
Lin (Zuluan) to come out and to get our land back," said a villager
surnamed Zhang. "But they donít care if weíre guilty or not guilty.
They just beat us."
An earlier microblog of Lufeng county police, who oversee Wukan,
stated in a post that 13 people had been arrested for organizing
illegal assemblies and using threats to force villagers to join
protests. It has not been updated since Tuesday.
Hong Kong media have reported that the police have also televised
photographs of five village protest leaders, offering 100,000 yuan
($15,000) rewards for information on their whereabouts.
Repeated calls to the Guangdong provincial government for comment
(Writing by Greg Torode; Additional reporting by Hong Kong bureau
and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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