The village of Wukan is in the Guangdong province located in Southern China. It is a small but mighty town of 13,000 fiercely independent people. The residents were best known for their powerful grassroots movement of 2011 which included shopkeepers, tradespeople, grandparents, students and a large host of residents who took on the Chinese government and won. After weeks of protests, which garnered international attention, the village of Wukan won the right to elect their own leadership after years of being the brunt of fraudulent management and tryannical government land grabs with no remuneration.
In 2012, Lin Zulian, a staunch advocate for regaining the stolen land, was elected as Wikan’s village chief. After four years, in June of 2016, the Chinese government arrested Zulian on bogus corruption charges. The Wukan population was outraged and they came back into the streets to protest in earnest because, as reports Aljazerra.com, they believed that Zulian was physically forced to make false confessions. These loud and outspoken protests were tolerated for a time, as well as being monitored. In September, 2016, Chinese authorities again came to the sleepy village in force with rubber bullets, riot shields and tear gas. Included in their assault was a pre-dawn raid where thirteen people who were “thought” to have plans for protesting, were forcibly extracted from their beds. Nine others were arrested for physically taking part in the protests.
As reported by Yahoo.com, those nine protesters have just been handed out jail sentences that will last from 2 to 10 years. They are officially charged with “illegal demonstrations, disturbing traffic and intentionally spreading false information.” Wukan residents are also being warned about their use of social media. China’s cyber police are continuing to monitor their posts, just as they have been doing since the days of the first successful protest.
BBC news reports that the once thriving democratic stronghold has been “crushed” by the Chinese authoritarian regime who say they are doing this because “village leaders continue to fabricate rumors [and] instigate mass gatherings.” Riot police are in place on Wukan roads using loudspeakers and shouting for people to turn themselves in. After tasting freedom and right to protest illegal and repressive government actions, one villager lamented, “I see no hope at all.” A cold cast of fear has replaced the joyous ring of freedom in Wukan.
(Photo Credit: Aljezeera.com Bobby Yip/Reuters)