Wukan: Police move on China protest village to end protests

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Media captionPolice in dawn raid at Wukan home

Police have launched an operation in the Chinese village of Wukan, to end protests over the jailing of the elected village chief.

Police, who entered the southern village overnight and raided homes, confirmed 13 people have been arrested.

Video posted online appears to show clashes in the streets with villagers throwing rocks at police who were using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Wukan now appears to be in lockdown and controlled by the authorities.

"Riot police are stationed at the entrance to our village. No-one can go in or out," one woman, surnamed Cai, told the BBC.

"I can't see any hope in this. The villagers feel so angry."

Police have accused villagers of spreading false information.

'Spreading rumours'

Lin Zuluan was voted in as Wukan's village chief in 2012, in an attempt by the local government to end months of protests about illegal land grabs.

He was jailed for three years last Thursday for corruption, but remains hugely popular. His supporters, who say a televised confession was forced and the charges are political, have been protesting again.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, people inside Wukan began sending video footage to the media apparently showing police breaking into homes to arrest people.

Image caption Images sent to the BBC showed villagers with injuries

In one video a man is seen being pinned to the ground by police in body armour, while other images show bloodied villagers.

The footage, which cannot be independently verified, also showed dozens of police under riot shields as protesters threw bricks and bottles.

A man with the surname Huang told the BBC that the government was trying to intimidate them into ending their protests.

He said those people arrested so far had assumed prominent roles in the protests or had been vocal on social media.

The local public security bureau in Lufeng, Guangdong has confirmed only that 13 people had been arrested for disturbing public order.

Image caption A police notice earlier this week warned that anyone continuing to protest would face legal consequences

It said the villagers had "constantly spread rumours", forced others to protest and stopped people from working.

"Local government and police have been patiently warning them and educating them, but they turned a blind eye and completely ignored the laws," said the statement.

"In order to protect the interest of the public and return the village life to order, the police have taken action and arrested them."

Police later said some of those arrested had been charged with spreading "false information and old pictures to create the so-called 'Wukan incident'".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Lin Zuluan's supporters believe he was forced to confess

Wukan, with a population of about 13,000, had been seen as a model for possible political reform in China.

In 2011 its residents rose up in protest after Party officials began seizing and selling off their land.

In an attempt to stem months of protests, the government allowed them to hold elections for a new village chief, which were won by Lin Zuluan.

In early 2016, he began pushing again for the villagers to receive proper compensation for their land. But in June, he was arrested and charged with taking bribes.

On 8 September he was jailed for just over three years and fined 400,000 yuan ($60,000; £45,000).

The Global Times newspaper, seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, said on Tuesday that some of the seized land had been returned, but that some remained in dispute.

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