Lin Zuluan smiles in March 2012 after being elected village chief in Wukan. Photo / AP
Residents of a seaside village in China
that has become an uncommon flash point for vociferous dissent against the Government did something exceedingly rare in this country.
According to video footage, villagers threw bricks and actually forced riot police to retreat. The video could not be independently verified but was widely shared by media in Hong Kong, the closest major city.
Riot police had entered the village and raided homes, and they later released a statement saying they arrested 13 people on charges of disrupting public order.
The village, Wukan, was once seen, mostly by Western observers, as a model for political reform in China.
It first made international headlines in 2011 when residents mounted a spirited protest against the seizure of land there by the Communist Party.
That led to the election of Lin Zuluan.Protesters built barricades, stockpiled food and stood their ground until the provincial Communist Party secretary, Wang Yang, brokered a deal that granted them the right to elect new leaders.
In June, Lin was charged with bribery and corruption, prompting further protests.
Police released a video of his confession, which was televised.
In the video, Lin quickly admits to serious charges well ahead of any trial, and does so in halting Mandarin, rather than his native dialect. Residents of Wukan asserted that Lin’s arrest was political and that they wouldn’t remain silent.
Last week, Lin was found guilty on some of the charges and sentenced to three years in prison and a hefty fine.
His fervent supporters vowed to protest twice a day – which is what they were doing yesterday when they clashed with riot police.
The trial of Lin, a very popular leader, was reportedly conducted amid unusually tight security. Police patrolled the court grounds, and blocks with guard dogs were set up on roads leading there.
Those unconnected to the trial, such as civilians who had other matters to attend to at the court, were not allowed to enter the premises.
It remains to be seen whether the protests in this tiny village of approximately 13,000 people can continue amid the police crackdown.
A police statement seemed to dismiss the possibility, saying that they had the support of residents and that “life and work are returning to normal”.