Chinese officials hold talks with village protesters

Relatives cry at a rally and a funeral for Xue Jinbo, a 42-year-old village leader who died in police custody in Wukan, China.

Story highlights

  • A senior party official meets a representative from the villagers of Wukan
  • Wukan residents claim land has been seized illegally, then sold to developers
  • The villagers want the release of four people detained by the authorities
  • They also want the return of the body of a villager who died in police custody
Residents of the southern Chinese village of Wukan held talks with government officials on Wednesday to try to defuse a tense standoff with the authorities following violent protests over land rights.
More than 10,000 residents of Wukan, a fishing village in Guangdong Province, claim land has been seized illegally and then sold by the local government to developers for the past decade.
News of one recent sale of nearly 1,000 acres of land to developers prompted protests by villagers who say they have not received any compensation and rely on the land for their livelihood.
Villagers last week drove out government officials and set up obstacles to prevent the police from entering the village. They say one villager, Xue Jinbo, was beaten to death while in police custody.
Zhu Mingguo, Guangdong's deputy party secretary, met with a local village representative on Wednesday, said Liu Jingmao, a spokesman for Shanwei city government, which administers the area. Liu declined to give details of the substance of the discussions.
In the negotiations, the villagers were seeking the release of four people who had been detained by the authorities, said a villager who gave only his surname, Chen, for fear of reprisals if he was identified. They were also demanding that the government return Xue's body for investigation into the cause of death.
The talks in Wukan come a day after separate demonstrations farther along the southern Chinese coast. Riot police used tear gas to disperse a large crowd of people who gathered to protest a coal power plant in the town of Haimen.
In Wukan, Xue, 42, was suspected of leading hundreds of villagers in protests over issues of land use, money and local elections in September that led to two days of rioting, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported last week.
His death was caused by cardiac failure and no apparent signs of assault were found on his body, the news agency quoted an investigator from Guangdong Province as saying.
The Shanwei government has said it has settled some of the complaints that led to the riots, Xinhua reported, and fired two local officials.
China has since censored searches for "Wukan" in online micro-blogs and other Twitter-like feeds to prevent the spread of information about the unrest. Searches on Sina Weibo for "Wukan" only result with the message, "according to relevant laws and regulations, results for Wukan cannot be displayed."
Disputes over land use in rural areas of China have increased as discontent has grown over local corruption and environmental issues.