Chinese Villagers Win Rare Compromise In Standoff with Provincial Government

Posted December 21st, 2011 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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Officials have given in to the demands of residents of a village in southern China who barricaded their community more than a week ago.

Protest leaders in Wukan, in southern Guangdong province, say a senior provincial official promised Wednesday the release of three village leaders who were detained earlier in the standoff over controversial land seizures.

Weeks of simmering anger over the seizures exploded this month after one of the village leaders died in police custody. The villagers blockaded roads leading into the community and have effectively been governing themselves.

In rare move on Wednesday, deputy provincial party secretary Zhu Mingguo called the villagers' demands reasonable.

Village leaders welcomed the concessions, but villager Wei Shaopei said many residents still suspect a trick.

“I feel a little afraid that they may go back on their word, that that they may be tricking us. But if they really do resolve it this time then we villagers will all be very happy.''

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 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.