Chinese Villagers Win Rare Compromise In Standoff Against Provincial Government

Posted December 21st, 2011 at 5:55 am (UTC-5)
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Southern Chinese officials have given into the demands of protesting villagers in southern China in a rare agreement to release several detained village leaders.

Protest leaders in Wukan, in the southern Guangdong province, say a senior provincial official told them in a meeting Wednesday that three detained village leaders will be released in the coming days.

In recent weeks, enraged villagers have driven local authorities out of the area in Guangdong and have effectively been governing themselves.

They have been demanding the release of the detained village leaders and protesting the death of one of them while in police custody.

Villagers say he was beaten, while police are saying he died of heart failure.

Tensions first flared in the fishing village in September, when villagers began protesting what they viewed as illegal land grabs and local government corruption. They are demanding the government return the land.

In another sign tensions are easing, the government agreed to lift roadblocks containing protesting Wukan residents in recent weeks.

The actions of the small fishing village have attracted international attention. In rare move on Wednesday, deputy provincial party secretary Zhu Mingguo called the villagers' demands reasonable.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, thousands of protesters in a fishing town in coastal China blocked an expressway in a tense standoff with riot police over pollution from a planned coal-fired power plant.

Witnesses in the Guangdong provincial town of Haimen say riot police used tear gas to disperse the angry crowds gathered near government buildings. The Associated Press reported demonstrators hurled rocks and bricks at the security force, and photos circulating on the Internet showed protesters and police injured and bleeding.

Protests in China over corruption, pollution, wages and land seizures have become more common in recent years, in part, analysts say, because of the spiraling growth of the Internet. China currently ranks first in Internet use, with more than 450 million Internet users.