Wukan villagers block main road to press for speedy return of land

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 4:38am

Villagers in Wukan, in eastern Guangdong, have taken to the barricades again, frustrated at the slow pace of restoration of farmland sold for development by former village cadres.

Hundreds of the villagers, whose protests two years ago led to the removal of those cadres and direct elections for a new village committee, blocked a main road yesterday, protesting that officials were stalling on restitution.

About 400 villagers, some holding rocks, engaged in a peaceful stand-off with about 500 police. Village chief Lin Zuluan was sent before lunch to negotiate with the Lufeng city government, which oversees Wukan. He returned an hour later, telling villagers to disperse, but many refused to leave.

"Some of the villagers said they wanted to attract the government's attention and would carry on for days," villager Zhang Jianxing said.

Some of the villagers said they wanted to attract the government's attention and would carry on for days

Zhang said the villagers had raised banners and a picture of Xue Jinbo , a local protest leader who died in police custody in December 2011. The portrait was originally planned to be displayed at a village pig farm, which had been sold to a Hong Kong-based developer, sparking unrest 18 months ago.

Anger over the condition of the farm upon its long-awaited return helped fuel yesterday's protest. It was the most high-profile demonstration by villagers since March 2012, when the new village committee took over.

Deputy village chief Yang Semao said villagers were venting their frustrations. He said about 200 hectares of village land had been returned but another 200 hectares had not. Other villagers said disputes with neighbouring villages over 470 hectares remained unresolved.

The pig farm had been sold to Chen Wenqing, a Wukan-born businessman from Hong Kong. Photos posted online appeared to show that anything of value had been removed from the site.