This is a developing story, and while I usually don’t comment on “sensitive” events as they happen, the stakes seem to be much higher this time.
In a small village in Guangdong, the villagers have staged a revolt. All government officials and police have fled the village after months of demonstrations sparked by land grabs and public funds that seem to have gone missing.
Now the village, and its thousands of inhabitants, are encircled by armed police who are demanding they give up their cause and return to normal life. The villagers however are insisting that the local gov’t apologize for the violence they have used against the people (including the death of an organizer while he was in police custody), as well as be given the right to throw out the corrupt officials and hold elections to choose new leaders.
I believe that one of the only reasons that this rebellion has not yet been crushed is that the villagers still have faith in the national gov’t and are only moving against their village officials. According to the villagers, Beijing (or CCTV or someone else) is going to be sending an inspection team tomorrow to assess the situation.
This means that local officials could feel pressure to regain control tonight. The latest reports showed that officials have started offering food to those who will sign a document that states they do not oppose the land sale, and have declared that the organizers will be punished. (To help put the village into context read- The importance of a hometown)
Your interest in this story could effect what happens next. International pressure has in the past led to further restraint from local gov’t officials. Your attention is also important because censorship efforts within China have effectively stopped the discussion of Wukan within the country, meaning that international coverage is the only coverage (Yaxue’s weibo account was deleted shortly after she re-posted information about the uprising).
When I showed the article to one of my co-workers she gasped at the sight of thousands of villagers standing behind a banner that begs, “Is democracy a crime?” and another that reads, “Blood debts must be repaid with blood.”
Then my co-worker told me this story:
Last night, I asked my husband, is China’s situation good or bad. He said, “Imagine that you are a sheep, and you have a choice between being hunted by a wolf or two lions. You might want to choose the wolf because he says that he will only eat one sheep every day, and the lions say that they will eat three. So one wolf seems like the much better choice. Later though you would realize that it was a foolish decision. The two lions would watch each other to make sure that they only eat the agreed number of sheep each day, but who watches the wolf? The wolf will eat all of the sheep, because no one will stop him.”
She then explained that the lions represent a democracy, while the wolf represents a one party system like China’s (just in case I had missed the metaphor).
“So which one did you choose” I asked.
“At first I chose the wolf,” she said, “but after my husband explained it to me, I thought ‘oh, lions really are a good thing.'”
Support the people of Wukan by continuing to follow this story
Malcolm Moore from the Telegraph, who deserves credit for bringing this story into the spotlight, managed to make it inside the village and published these three accounts, he also posted additional information on his G+ page:
- Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back (the story of how Malcolm manged to get inside the village)
- Rebel Chinese village of Wukan “has food for ten days”
- Wukan Siege: Chinese officials ‘hold village to ransom’ (Malcolm reflects on why it was necessary to leave the village)
- Chinese gov’t vows to hunt down rebel village leaders
- Wukan siege: First crack in the villagers’ resolve
- Wukan siege: the fallen villager
- China’s rebel villagers in Wukan threaten to march on government offices
- Wukan siege: rebel Chinese villagers reject resolution talks
Charlie from ChinaGeeks.org has also done an incredible job of gathering information and pictures from Weibo that have to be seen. It is hard to imagine the size of these gatherings and the brutality of the police without seeing it.
Finally, China Media Project, also has a great article that helps frame Wukan in a larger context and includes a propaganda video released by the local gov’t.
Addition from Yaxue:
A few thoughts about Wukan:
1. Wukan is different. While land grabs and corruption is rampant everywhere, petitioners tend to protest individually, but this is 10,000+ people bound together.
2. The first movers of Wukan protest are young people. The youngest is only 20 years old (now detained by the police), but incredibly informed and savvy about internet use. They made movies about the village’s recent history of land sale and other corruption issues, and shown them to villagers so that everyone is on the same page. They are highly organized and call themselves “Wukan Hot-blooded Youth League.”
3. Typical Guangdong families, Wukan without exception, have relatives overseas, and response from the latter will help the Wukan cause, I am hoping.
4. The party’s responses, to no one’s surprise, have been their usual reflexes: mutilate the facts to fit their own needs better; detain leaders and torture them to break their will; accuse “overseas anti-China element” for inciting a revolt; blablabla. When are they going to start thinking differently? I am losing my patience.
5. Amazingly, the villagers are putting their faith in the central government. They believe it is the local government that is bad. We will see. I am not so sure, and I fear for them.
6. This can be 1989 all over again, except it is by the farmers.
7. Pray for the people of Wukan, young and old, women and men. I can’t stand to hear any death anymore.
8. Finally, the longer story of my short-lived Weibo account: The first couple of weeks, I didn’t make a peep on Weibo, and all I did was reading and gathering what I wanted for Heard on Weibo translation. Then I started posting information about Chen Guangcheng that was not readily available in China. For about three or four weeks or so, I was fine (to my surprise). Then three days ago, shortly after I posted the news that Wukan was under, my account was deleted, so thoroughly that I can’t even get on the home page of Weibo.com. I am working on getting back on.