06/18/2016, 14.40
CHINA
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Wukan villagers subject to police “iron fist” like five years ago

Residents accuse the authorities of land grab and failure to bring justice. Village chief is arrested just before he could speak publicly about the matter. Other activists are under de facto house arrest. About 63 per cent of all social disputes are caused by land grabs and farmers’ protests.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Wukan is back in the spotlight. After accusing the authorities in Lufeng District (Guangdong) of corruption and illegal land grab, Wukan village chief Lin Zuluan was arrested himself on phoney "corruption" charges.  His fellow villagers have also been told that if they protest they would be “dealt with an iron fist”.

In 2011, Wukan villagers stared down the authorities who sold land without compensating residents. This led to months of siege during which security forces cordoned off the village and cut off water and food supplies.

Eventually, Guangdong provincial authorities struck a deal with locals that led to the arrest of those involved in corrupt practices and allowed residents to elect their own leaders and get their land back.

Five years later, none of the land has been returned, and villagers have decided to take direct action.

Lin, who was also a leader in the 2011 protest, said in a prepared speech circulated online this week that the people of Wukan are “prepared to pay a higher price” then they did five years ago to air their grievances against the inaction of the upper levels of governments over the land issue.

He was supposed to address a village general assembly this Sunday over the petition circulated Tuesday when he was arrested for “corruption”.

In the name of "social stability", the city’s police warned any violence and looting in the village would be “dealt with an iron fist”.

In what constitutes de facto house arrest, other village activists were “advised” not to leave their home.

Land remains the core issue. Analysts estimate that 63 per cent of all social disputes in China are related to this issue.

According to the last figures released by the government for the year 2010, the number of incidents hit 180,000. Since then, the authorities have not made public any more data on social unrest.

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