Tense stand-off continues in China protest village

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Media captionMartin Patience reports from inside the village of Wukan

A tense stand-off between villagers and local authorities is continuing in southern China's Guangdong province.

A BBC reporter in Wukan says villagers held a fresh rally there on Thursday and that both police and villagers have set up checkpoints around the village.

The row - over village land taken by the local government - has been raging since September.

A local official said that the land seizures would be halted, but those inciting unrest would be punished.

Wu Zili, acting mayor of the city of Shanwei, which oversees Wukan, also promised to investigate village officials for wrongdoing, according to local media reports.

The current wave of protests broke out several days ago after the death of a villager while in police custody.

The rally on Thursday saw hundreds of villagers chanting slogans such as "Down with corrupt officials" but also "Long live the Communist party", as they hope China's central government will intervene on their behalf, the BBC's Martin Patience reports from Wukan.

Villagers say five people have been snatched from Wukan by police in recent days, prompting local people to mount nightly patrols to defend the village, he adds.

'Sudden illness'

The row between villagers and local authorities has deep roots.

Villagers say local officials have, over a long period, taken their land and not given them proper compensation.

In a show of anger, they staged protests - and went on a rampage - in September.

This latest unrest was sparked by the detention and death of villager Xue Jinbo, who was acting as a village representative.

The government detained him, with a group of others, last week, saying he was a criminal suspect being held in relation to the September protests.

But on Monday the authorities announced that he had died of a "sudden illness" on the third day of his detention.

But villagers still are questioning the cause of death - and want the body returned, which they say the local government is refusing to do.

Blocked searches

Meanwhile, China's internet censors have blocked searches relating to an ongoing protest in the village of Wukan, web users say.

Users of Sina Weibo, the country's Twitter-like micro-blogging site, say searches for Wukan return no results.

Instead, a message appears saying: "According to relevant law, regulations and policies, search results for Wukan cannot be displayed."

Image caption Conflict over land is not unusual in the Chinese countryside

Zheng Yanxiong, a local communist party chief, made an appeal for the protests to end in a Xinhua article.

"The government will strive to settle all related problems and hopes that the village will not be instigated into staging further riots," he said.

Conflict like this over land is not unusual in the Chinese countryside.

There are thought to be tens of thousands of what the government refers to as mass incidents every year.

But the Wukan unrest appears much bigger and more resilient than other outbreaks of unrest.

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