Wukan villagers defer planned protest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am


Wukan residents agreed yesterday to defer a planned rally in front of the Lufeng city government headquarters today and remove barricades at entrances to their village ahead of meeting with a senior Guangdong official.

Police and villagers last night removed roadblocks set up ahead of the special task-force meeting, led by deputy Guangdong party chief Zhu Mingguo, this morning.

Village leader Lin Zuluan said the protesters agreed not to march to the city government on three conditions.

'The government needs to agree to recognise the legal status of the village's temporary ruling committee, release three young villagers who were arrested earlier, and release Xue's body for inspection by the media and his family,' Lin said, referring to Xue Jinbo, a villager who died in police custody, allegedly as a result of brutal treatment.

Beijing has appointed a working group - led by Zhu and Guangdong vice-governor Lin Musheng, along with 20 other senior provincial-level officials - to investigate villagers' complaints over corrupt officials, controversial land deals and a lack of democratic elections that have led to months of protests in Wukan.

Just before 7.30pm yesterday, villagers received a mass SMS from the Lufeng city government detailing Zhu's latest concessions. It said the government would guarantee the safety of village representatives who agreed to attend talks and would not make further arrests if villagers refrained from 'causing trouble'.

A China News Service report also quoted Zhu as saying that Lin Zuluan and fellow village leader Yang Semao would not be held liable if they expressed regrets, agreed to work with the government and avoided 'obstructing the authorities' work'. Lin and Yang said they were approached by six party chiefs from neighbouring villages who were appointed to relay the message that the central government had taken notice of their petition and urged them to meet with the working group.

On Sunday Shanwei party chief Zheng Yanxiong accused the villagers of 'colluding with foreign media to create trouble'. Pigs would fly before the foreign media could be trusted, he told officials.

'If you wouldn't cause trouble, we wouldn't have to arrest people. Don't you think it costs money to hire armed police?' Zheng said in remarks directed at the villagers.