China sends 9 villagers to prison after land protests

AP News
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Posted: Dec 27, 2016 3:05 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities handed down prison sentences to nine protesters in a fishing village that's received international attention for its demonstrations against land seizures, state media reported Tuesday.

The villagers in Wukan were given sentences on Monday ranging from two to 10 years for offenses that included illegal assembly, blocking traffic and disrupting public order.

With a population of 13,000 people and located near Hong Kong, Wukan was the site in 2011 of a rare victory for protesters against the ruling Communist Party over the issue of the government taking land of farmers and peasants to build large-scale projects. Facing an international spotlight, the party allowed villagers to elect their local party secretary. The winner of that election was Lin Zuluan, a former protester.

But Lin's detention on corruption charges earlier this year sparked more than 80 straight days of rallies calling for his release, despite warnings from Chinese authorities not to assemble.

This time, police moved in to violently suppress the protests. They fired rubber bullets at demonstrators and assaulted journalists from two Hong Kong newspapers conducting interviews in the village.

Videos shared on Chinese social media showed one person with blood on his arm and chest, and another being treated for an apparent bullet wound on his hand.

Lin gave a televised confession to charges that he took up to 593,000 yuan (about $85,300) to "influence livelihood and economic projects" in the village. He was given 37 months in jail. But one of his former lawyers told The Associated Press in September that he believed Lin had confessed under pressure to protect his family, and soon afterward, Lin withdrew his confession and tried to appeal his sentence, but was unsuccessful.