More than 80 per cent of the 13,000 villagers in Wukan, Guangdong, are ready to shed blood to defend their rights if the authorities respond to their protests with violence, a village representative said yesterday.
About 1,000 villagers staged a protest yesterday afternoon and discussed plans to petition the Lufeng city government tomorrow for land rights and fair elections. They again demanded the return of the body of protest leader Xue Jinbo, whose death in custody on December 11 was officially attributed to natural causes. Villagers accuse police of beating Xue to death.
Police erected a cordon around this coastal village some 120 kilometres east of Hong Kong after protesters forced them out of the settlement more than a week ago.
As villagers gathered in the centre of the village, they began chanting slogans praising the central government and condemning corrupt local officials and their brutal treatment of petitioning villagers. During the rally, Yang Semao, chairman of the village's temporary ruling committee, appealed to the Red Cross Society of China to send counsellors to help villagers suffering from severe stress out of fear of a police attack.
Yang also called on villagers to donate more money to the village petition fund. He urged them to be patient, saying the government was pondering how to handle their case, which would set a national precedent for solving future land conflicts.
Villagers say local officials have seized more than 400 hectares of farmland since 1998 without offering villagers compensation. They clashed with police in September after complaining that their concerns had been ignored by officials.