Wukan crackdown: 'They were firing at us like we were birds'

By Neil Connor

Riot police in Wukan. Photo / Wechat
Riot police in Wukan. Photo / Wechat

Residents of a rebel Chinese village which rose up against official corruption have told of how women, children and the elderly were caught up in a brutal police crackdown which left scores of people injured and more than 100 arrested.

Unverified video images posted online showed riot police firing rubber bullets, using tear gas and even apparently throwing stun grenades at crowds as they crushed a protest on Tuesday in Wukan, in China's southern Guangdong province.

The clashes erupted after police carried out early morning raids which saw 13 local activists being detained for incitement.

Wukan first grabbed international headlines five years ago when mass protests over land grabs by corrupt local officials forced Beijing to backdown and grant free elections in the village.

Tensions resurfaced after the elected village chief, Lin Zuluan, was detained in June, with police accusing him of graft.

He was jailed for more than three years last week, sparking further anger among many.

Zhuang Liehong, a former Wukan protest leader who fled to the United States in 2014, said his father was among those who were "violently arrested" by police in the raids, which took place at 3am local time.

"The raids led to confrontations which lasted until noon," said Zhuang, who keeps in regular contact with villagers.

He said that villagers told him more than 100 people were detained in the clashes.

Images being shared on Chinese social media show scores of residents embroiled with clashes with riot police. Many were wearing motorcycle helmets, some were waving Chinese national flags, while others were hurling stones.

The images also showed villagers with serious injuries. Some were covered with blood, while others had dark red markings on their bodies showing where they had been hit with plastic bullets.

"The police were detaining residents up until about 3pm," said one local villager, who did not want to be named. "They were old people, women and young kids, and many were left injured," the villager told the Telegraph.

"The police were firing at villagers like they were birds," another source said. "Some are old people and women. I am not sure if anyone died from the rubber bullets, but I am sure that they were seriously wounded."

Zhuang also sent the Telegraph several videos which appeared to show a tense standoff between security and residents inside the village, which had been placed under a lockdown.






Sources also said that authorities had been appealing for information on five men who they claim were involved in the protests, and a bounty of 100,000 yuan had been placed on their heads.

The local Public Security Bureau said took action in Wukan to restore stability to the village.

An official had told state media earlier this week that the local government had "addressed all of the Wukan villagers' legitimate demands for land".

Beijing fears any signs of discontent against its rule. It is deeply suspicious of moves towards greater freedoms in Hong Kong, which is only a four hour drive from Wukan, and is concerned that such demands could spill over into the mainland.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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