Wukan protest leader ‘admits’ bribery as Hong Kong media outlets accused of ‘inciting’ the demonstrations

State media on mainland also report that the leader of the protest campaign has allegedly confessed to taking bribes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 9:07am

The village chief at the centre of protests over land seizures in Wukan, Guangdong, has confessed to taking bribes in a video released by local authorities amid mounting demands for his release.

The disclosure came as authorities accused a Hong Kong newspaper and a digital media group of inciting, planning and directing the protests.

Villagers in southern China defy warnings and press ahead with demonstration to demand chief’s release

About 2,000 villagers have taken to the streets in recent days demanding the release of ­the village’s Communist Party secretary Lin Zuluan, who was taken away by police on Saturday on suspicion of bribery. He had called on villagers to march to the offices of the Lufeng city government to air their grievances over the ongoing land disputes.

In the video shown by the Shanwei government, which administers Wukan, Lin admitted taking bribes.

“Due to my ignorance of law, I took huge kickbacks in contracting and procurement projects. This is a crime – the biggest crime I’ve committed,” Lin said in the video, which was shown at a government press conference.

Wukan made global headlines in 2011 when residents staged large demonstrations over ­corruption and land grabs. They were allowed to directly elect their leaders following the stand-off, but allegations that officials were misusing land persisted, and have led to the recent protests.

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The villagers did not march to the city government yesterday as planned, but instead held a ­protest at the village calling for Lin’s release.

His wife, Yang Zhen, said her husband was innocent. “I believe he has never done such things. It’s a lie. He is clean and innocent. I feel sad about it and I believe he has been wronged.

“They should not force him to make a confession and make false accusations against him,” she said.

Villagers said Lin’s grandson, Lin Liyi, who was detained on Monday, had been released, but he had not made any public ­statement.

One resident said her son was forced at school to sign a document stating Lin had received bribes, and those who refused to sign were not allowed to leave. Other villagers said the school extended its hours to prevent pupils from joining the protest. The school denied the allegation.

A Shanwei official accused Apple Daily and Initium Media of inciting, planning and directing protests at the village.

Shi Shuoyan, the head of the city press office, was quoted by mainland media as saying: “We welcome overseas media to interview and report, according to the law and regulations, objectively and fairly.

“However, a few overseas media, such as Apple Daily and Initium Media, have been inciting, planning and directing in Wukan. We will take measures according to the law.”

Five years since landmark protests, Chinese village stirs again

Overseas outlets have been blamed for inciting protests before, but it is thought to be the first time Hong Kong media have been directly named as involved.

Apple Daily’s chief editor Chan Pui-man denied the newspaper was involved in organising the protests. “We travelled to cover the news, not to do those things he claimed,” she said.

Sham Yee-lan, chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said the statement by the mainland officers was terrifying.

“Those who have not been named might also be scared as the statement said to take measures according to the law…they are just scaring away the reporters by threatening them,” Sham said.