China rebel village holds off planned march

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 8:33 PM

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese villagers who have been defying authorities for days with a protest over seized land and a suspicious death have postponed a march on a government office for at least a day to give officials a chance to offer concessions.

Residents of Wukan village in south China's Guangdong province had threatened to march on a local government office on Wednesday as part of their protest over farmland seized for development and the death in custody of a protest organizer.

But in a sign that the confrontation that has lasted for more than a week may be losing some momentum, a village organizer said the march would be put off until at least Thursday, when the residents would decide whether the government had offered enough concessions.

"Now, (we) will give them one day to reach a consensus. If not, next day," Lin Zuluan, a village elder, told reporters late on Wednesday, before he held talks with Zhu Mingguo, a senior Guangdong province official.

Although the Wukan rebellion is limited to one village, it has attracted widespread attention as a humbling rebuff to the ruling Communist Party, which values stability above all else.

For more than a week, villagers have driven off officials and police, and held protests in outrage at the death in custody of activist Xue Jinbo, whose family rejects the government's position that he died of natural causes.

They and fellow villagers believe he was subjected to abuse that left injuries, including welts, on his body.

Guangdong's official newspaper, the Southern Daily, has said the government of Shanwei, the area that oversees Wukan, had offered to negotiate with the developer to return 404 acres of land and to compensate villagers.

Underscoring government fears of unrest, in a separate protest in Haimen, a town further east up the coast from Wukan, residents demonstrated in front of government offices and blocked a highway over plans to build a power plant.

Pictures on a Chinese microblogging site, Sina's "Weibo" service, which could not be independently verified by Reuters, showed hundreds of people gathered in front of the offices as riot police kept watch.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Robert Birsel)