More Trouble in China's 'Democracy Village'

More Trouble in China's 'Democracy Village'
Photo Credit: RT/達志影像

What you need to know

Hit by renewed unrest, Wukan Village is once again in the news. And Beijing is worried.

Five years ago the former village chief of Wukan Village in China's Guangdong Province was accused of illegally selling land that had been cultivated by villagers, sparking protests by thousands of villagers in September 2011. As clashes between the residents and the government escalated, the central government in Beijing stepped in and promised to hold an election for village chief and village representatives.

With the people forcing officials to compromise, the incident was regarded in many circles as an example of "grassroots democracy" in China, or the "Wukan experience."

However, after village chief Lin Zuluan (林祖戀) was arrested on June 18 for accepting bribes, thousands of villagers once again took to the streets.

Lin was the leader of the demonstrations five years ago and was elected village chief in 2012.

Few villagers believe that Lin accepted bribes. One resident says, "We all believe that Lin is innocent. If the government has evidence of him accepting bribes, then why bother to arrest him at midnight?"

A reported 3,500 people gathered on June 21, asking for Lin's release.

Unlike five years ago, when international media were allowed in to report on the developments, the local government has interfered with interviews. Thousands of armed police have been deployed to secure the borders around the village. People have been forbidden to enter the village without showing their ID cards to the police, and media have been blocked from entering. Spreading information about the situation in Wukan Village is also forbidden.

Although armed police have not interfered with the demonstrations, it is reported that the local government has taken action to prevent students from joining the protest on June 20.

On June 21, the third day of the demonstrations, the villagers canceled their plans to visit the local government, fearing a crackdown. On the same day, the central government released footage of Lin's "confession." In the video, Lin says he regrets accepting "huge amounts" of commission from companies and is willing to receive the punishment he deserves.

The local government also alleges that Apple Daily and Initium Media, two media outlets, are responsible for flaring tensions in Wukan Village, adding that it would take action to deal with the problem if necessary.