Chinese Mourn Protester Who Died in Police Custody

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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Thousands of residents of a Chinese fishing village turned out Friday to honor a local resident who died in police custody amid a standoff with authorities over disputed land seizures.

Reports from Wukan in southern Guangdong province say as many as 7,000 people attended the memorial service for Xue Jinbo, who before his arrest had been negotiating with government officials about the land seizures.

Sobbing residents, who have barricaded their village to keep authorities out, displayed angry protest banners and a large portrait of Xue.

Government officials say Xue, who was 42, suffered a heart attack and died in a hospital. But his daughter was quoted in a Hong Kong magazine this week saying his body bore open wounds to the forehead and jaw as well as bruising and swelling. The family believes he was beaten to death.

Amateur videos shot with mobile phones and distributed to Western news agencies have shown near-daily protest marches in the village, where residents argue that farmland has been sold to developers in violation of their wishes. Barricades have been in place around the village for almost a week.

A small group of supporters marched Thursday in Hong Kong, where legislative council member Lee Cheuk-yan said the situation in Wukan was just part of a broader rise in public anger at Chinese authorities.

“All over China the villagers and the people are very angry with land grab and corruption so it shows that the system is not responding to the need of the people and the system is using only repression to respond. And we don't believe that repression is the way out. It will only trigger more protest and anger from the people.''

The mayor of Shanwei city, which oversees Wukan, promised earlier this week to freeze one development project and investigate local officials for wrongdoing. But he also warned of strong measures against those responsible for instigating trouble.