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Riot police besiege restive provincial towns

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-20

Thousands of residents of a village in southern China were met with a heavy police presence Tuesday when they took to their regional capital to rally for government action over illegal land grabs and the death in custody of a local leader.

AFP - Supporters of a Chinese village in open revolt against officialdom mounted a demonstration in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou Sunday, the first confirmed instance of the Wukan protests spreading.

The three protesters -- all of whom were detained -- said it was the second time in a week they had gone to a square in the Guangdong provincial capital to show support for the Wukan villagers, who have been besieged by authorities.

While the Guangzhou city protest was relatively small, it is a sign that government efforts to block news of the unrest in Wukan, also in Guangdong, have failed and the villagers are attracting support from the public.

Thousands of Wukan residents have taken to the streets calling for the return of land they say was stolen by local Communist Party officials, and for the body of a community leader who died in police custody.

"I learned the news of Wukan from the Internet and I want to support Wukan people. I support their action to defend their rights," Yang Chong, a migrant worker from the eastern province of Jiangxi, told AFP by telephone.

"I have the same feeling as they have -- I have no big rights, such as the right to vote or human rights. I really wish that more people would join us to support Wukan," Yang said from a guardroom near the square where he and two other protesters were being held by police.

Another member of the group, Yu Gang, said he had planned to make a speech in the square about democracy and freedom but was arrested before he had the chance to begin.

"I think a speech is influential because it will encourage people to go out onto the street, to give them the courage not to fear being arrested," the writer told AFP.

The three friends said they had announced their plans to protest on the Internet.

They said they had taken part in a bigger protest last Wednesday involving about a dozen people handing out flyers on the square. Police had confiscated the material but no one was detained.

Despite attempts to censor the web and a virtual black-out in China's state-run media, weibos -- Chinese microblogs similar to Twitter -- have buzzed with news of the Wukan protest over the past week.

In Wukan itself many businesses have been closed and schools shuttered as riot police blockade the village of 13,000 people, which has for months been the scene of occasionally violent protests over alleged land seizures.

Authorities have vowed to crack down on the instigators of the latest unrest, which was triggered by the arrest of five villagers, one of whom died last Sunday in police detention.

Authorities say the 42-year-old man suffered a heart attack, while relatives who saw the body said they believe he had been beaten to death.

Date created : 2011-12-20