Police Ban Pictures of China's Latest 'Democracy Village' Riots

Police Ban Pictures of China's Latest 'Democracy Village' Riots
Photo Credit: James Pomfret / REUTERS / 達志影像

What you need to know

Chinese police clash with villagers and chase their tails online after more trouble emerges in China's 'democracy village.'

Police in China have banned the publication of photos and videos of a riot that broke out in Wukan earlier today.

Villagers in Wukan, Guangdong Province, rioted after the former director of the village committee, Lin Tsulien (林祖戀), was sentenced to more than three years in jail on Sept. 8. Today police violently suppressed the villagers and arrested some of the riot leaders, the South China Morning Post reports.

According to the SCMP, tear gas and rubber bullets were used to repress the crowd. Residents were seen throwing stones at the police as they approached. Unarmed residents were injured and one elderly woman died after she was shot by police, according to posts on Chinese social media.

Pictures and videos showing villagers injured by police quickly spread online and were reported by foreign media.

About nine hours after police broke into Wukan village, officials issued a public announcement on Weibo, warning that people who spread “fake photos and videos” of the riot would be investigated.

The statement says police had already arrested 13 people who had “disrupted public order,” including protest leaders Tsai Chialin (蔡加粦), Chang Hsiangkeng (張向坑) and Yang Chinchen (楊錦貞).

The post describes the riot as an “illegal gathering,” saying it involved only a few people, and that police were “widely supported by most Wukan residents to maintain the good order” in the region.

Police claim many people have been spreading "false messages" online about the incident.

“We reaffirm that any fake message violating the law will be countered,” the statement says.

As this is being written, the statement had been reposted more than 1,200 times, but comments under the post appear to have been removed. A netizen who saw the comments before they were eliminated says the comments were deleted by law enforcement authorities

Netizens on Weibo raged at the police, although most of those comments also appear to have been removed within hours.

One netizen, who claimed to be the grandchild of one elderly woman arrested this morning, said “what did my grandmother do wrong? Is it necessary for you to take her away in the early morning?”

He questioned police claims that villagers had disrupted public order and traffic.

Another netizen commented that “the [Chinese] Communist government really cannot be trusted.”

“Democracy is dead,” another netizen said.

Five years ago, the former village chief of Wukan 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 was arrested on June 18 on charges of 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.

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

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole