Thousands of residents of a southern Chinese village staging a rare revolt are calling on authorities to return the body of a local representative whose death in police custody helped sparked the rebellion.
The villagers, who have driven local authorities from the area, gathered at a square outside a local temple Saturday to shout slogans calling for the return of farmland they say has been sold to developers without their consent and to urge the central government to intervene, said resident Qin Zhuan, a woman contacted by phone.
"We have been wronged," the villagers chanted, according to Qin. "Long live the central government! Strike down corrupt officials."
The villagers will also hold a march in the village to demand that police return the body of Xue Jinbo, a village representative who died in police custody last Sunday, she said.
Police have set up checkpoints around Wukan, a village of 20,000 that has for months been the site of simmering protests, and have blocked transportation of food in a bid to choke off the weeklong revolt. Since last weekend, villagers have kept police out with barricades made of tree trunks.
Young men are guarding the barricades and patrolling the village roads, sometimes armed with wooden clubs, said Huang Jinqi, another resident reached by phone. Food is smuggled in by other routes, he added.
"Some people from neighboring villages have been bringing us vegetables and rice using the small roads so we are currently all right, there's no need to worry about food," Huang said.
Calls to police in Shanwei, the city that oversees Wukan village, rang unanswered.
Protests against official misconduct are increasingly common in fast-developing China, but Wukan residents have taken things a step further, erecting barricades a week ago to keep police out and posing a challenge to the authoritarian government. On a near-daily basis, thousands of villagers gather for rallies, shouting slogans for the return of their land and pumping their fists in the air.
But signs of a split in the community have emerged in the last couple of days. Protesters estimate that dozens of villagers have joined government supporters who were offering food in exchange for their support.