Wukan lockdown: Chinese village turns into ‘war zone’ as police move in

Tear gas and rubber bullets used as dozens arrested in Wukan protests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 12:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 1:45am

The remote fishing village of Wukan in eastern Guangdong is under a de facto lockdown after tensions escalated on Tuesday afternoon, leading to dozens more protesters being arrested.

The clash followed a pre-dawn raid that saw 13 residents detained, allegedly for disturbing public order.

Locals compared the clash yesterday afternoon to combat in a “war zone”, with injured villagers forced to remain inside fearing arrest.

Wukan attracted media coverage around the world five years ago after villagers staged a series of protests against land seizures to make way for development.

Provincial authorities at that time eventually defused the tension by, among other pledges, allowing villagers to elect their chief.

But land disputes lingered and tensions flared in recent months. Village leader Lin Zuluan, who headed protests against land seizures, was jailed last week on corruption charges. Villagers have been protesting since Lin’s arrest in June.

Tear gas, rubber bullets fired as Chinese riot police clash with villagers after Wukan arrests

Squads of special police stormed individual households before 4am yesterday and arrested 13 people. Photographs posted by villagers showed their homes’ metal gates broken or torn down during the raids.

Hundreds of angry villagers then got into a stand-off with riot police at around 6am, with bricks thrown and tear gas fired. Photographs and videos posted by villagers appeared to show residents injured by rubber bullets.

We were running for our lives, as many rounds of tear gas and bullets had been fired at us
Wukan villager

Multiple witnesses confirmed that one elderly woman was taken to hospital for treatment after she was injured during the violence.

That clash quieted down after 10am, but tensions escalated again in the afternoon, when paramilitary police suddenly crowded into the village centre, dispersing crowds to the east and west ends of Wukan in order to separate the protesters.

“Many of us didn’t know what happened and we were running for our lives, as many rounds of tear gas and bullets had been fired at us,” said a villager who suffered an injury on her forehead.

China ramps up security as Wukan village chief Lin Zuluan jailed, fined for bribery

Another resident said he saw police climbing onto the rooftops of local houses and shooting tear gas at residents who were running away.

It’s like a war zone here, much worse than the Japanese invasion
Wukan villager

“It’s like a war zone here, much worse than the Japanese invasion,” he said.

A few villagers have complained of food shortages due to armed policemen guarding every village entrance.

“Me and my children are eating instant noodles, as we are running out of food with shops being closed for two days and the village being guarded,” said one 40-year-old resident.

ID cards were being checked by the guards to screen suspected protesters from entering Wukan, according to villagers.

Wukan: a village living in fear following arrest of party chief

Police in Lufeng city, which administers Wukan, said in a statement at about noon on Tuesday that some internet photos and information about Wukan had been fabricated, and that those who spread false information would be dealt with.