Story highlights

Wukan residents claim land has been seized illegally, then sold to developers

The villagers wanted the release of people detained by the authorities

They also wanted the return of the body of a villager who died in police custody

(CNN) —  

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.

Villagers and authorities had been at odds over land issues in the southern Chinese village of Wukan.

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. Villagers were also angered that Xue’s body had not been returned.

The two sides met Wednesday to try and end the standoff. During the talks, government officials agreed to release the detained villagers and return Xue’s body, said a villager who gave only his surname, Chen, for fear of reprisals if he was identified.

Liu Jingmao, a spokesman for Shanwei city government, also confirmed that the talks had ended and police had been removed from the area. But the spokesman did not want to give any more details on the issue.

The talks in Wukan came 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.