Wukan Honors Martyr Amid Siege

Villagers gathered on Friday outside the house of Xue Jinbo and held a “quiet ceremony” to honor the man whose death in police custody on Sunday ignited “open revolt” and an ongoing standoff between agitated residents and expelled authorities. From The Telegraph:

“There was no marching, no protesting, no slogan shouting,” said the villager, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. “It was two hours of quiet condolence, of reflection on his life.”

Mr Xue’s daughter, Jianwan, said she suspected that the authorities would not release her father’s body, for fear of inflaming the village further. She said that while their tradition is to have a burial, her father would probably be quietly cremated by officials.

On Friday afternoon, the villagers held a “Jin Bai” ceremony, kneeling and paying their respects to Mr Xue.

The Telegraph also published the story of Xue Jinbo today, an in-depth profile which includes details of his death from interviews with members of the man’s family who still have not been allowed by local officials to take possession of his body:

“We were not allowed cameras or phones and we were accompanied by armed police. There were also a group of men in plain clothes who had knuckle dusters,” she said.

“Inside the morgue around 40 policemen came in with us, surrounding us to make sure we did not take pictures. My mother and I had to be supported. I had not eaten all day. They slid his body from the freezer, but when they unzipped the bag, there was a bad smell, so we think my father cannot have died that morning as they claimed.”

Miss Xue said her father’s body was covered in bruises and cuts. Both his nostrils were caked with blood. His thumbs were bent and twisted backwards. A large bruise on his back suggested he had been kicked from behind. And the clean state of his clothes suggested to the family that he may have been stripped first, and then tortured.

“When we came out, there were two rows of riot police, around 50 of them, and a dozen police cars. We pleaded for his body but they refused, saying it might inflame the village. It is still lying there in the morgue,” she said.

As the villagers paid tribute to Xue (see photos of the funeral service and memorial service rally on McClatchy’s China Rises blog), Bloomberg reported that police with shotguns continued to man the blockade around the village and restrict people and food from entering. A Wall Street Journal reporter barred from entering through the checkpoint observed hundreds of paramilitary police, some with automatic weapons, standing guard at the village’s entryways. Malcom Moore, the Telegraph reporter who successfully slipped into Wukan earlier this week and spent two days embedded within the restricted zone, tweeted yesterday via the hashtag #Wukan that he suspected the government would attempt to resolve the situation by dividing and conquering the villagers. Last night, he reported that such a strategy appears to be creating the “first cracks” in the villagers’ resolve:

Roughly 30 villagers have gone over to the government’s side, according to sources in the village, and are now actively persuading others to join them.

The 30 villagers are offering others rice and cooking oil, both of which are in increasingly scarce supply, to villagers who are willing to leave their signatures on a blank document, which could then be manipulated to show support for the government’s actions.

“They want the signatures so they can use them later to show the village actually approves of the local government’s plans,” said Chen Xidong, 23, one of the villagers. “These men were bought off by the local government. But no one signed apart from some seven-year-old kids who did not know better.”

Moore tweeted this morning that more than 100 villagers have now crossed over to the government side. His article also mentions fears that the defectors may try to apprehend the village’s temporary leaders, thought to now be on a wanted list, and turn them over a government which yesterday pledged to “severely punish” anyone found to have played a leadership role in the rebellion. The government also halted a real estate project and opened an investigation into the actions of the local officials accused by residents of selling village land to property development, but The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs writes today that villagers have seen right through such efforts:

Given the vehemence of those who believe Mr. Xue was murdered, it is unclear whether the government’s latest offer to investigate their complaints over land will calm tensions. In an audio recording made by a Hong Kong journalist that has been circulating online, Xue Jianwan, a 21-year-old teacher who is the eldest daughter of Mr. Xue, tearfully refuted the government’s contention that her father had asthma and heart disease. “They say they didn’t torture him,” she said. “Then where do all the bruises come from?”

The authorities have tried to win back public opinion through propaganda efforts that so far appear to have been unsuccessful. On Thursday, the government released a videotape of an interview with one of the four other village representatives arrested on the same day as Mr. Xue. The men have been charged with inciting a rampage by villagers in September that led to the destruction of $330,000 in public property, including overturned police vehicles and ransacked government buildings.

In the recording, the man, Zhang Jiancheng, tries to console his tearful sister by assuring her that he has not been tortured and that the food is quite good. “The villagers should trust the leaders to solve this problem,” he said, his wrists cuffed in front of him.

The New York Times also posted a short photoseries with images from yesterday’s protest activity, noting that residents had demanded the right to elect their local officials. ChinaGeeks’ Charles Custer posted an edited and narrated version of a longer Chinese video titled “The Seeds of Wukan,” which presents a clear overview of the events that led to the revolt and the realities of the current situation.

Tom Lasseter, the Beijing Bureau Chief for McClatchy Newspapers who evaded the roadblock and has been tweeting and reporting from within Wukan since yesterday, called the situation “the Chinese Communist Party’s nightmare in minature”:

Village officials and police had fled the town, leaving government offices empty in the shadows of street signs.

The result is almost unthinkable in today’s China: A swath of land no longer under the direct management of the Communist Party and its functionaries.

“The government officials pushed us too far. We had to fight,” said an 18-year-old man surnamed Wu, who like many in Wukan didn’t want his full name used for fear of reprisals when the might of the state returned.

The living rooms of Wukan were filled with people trying to fathom what tomorrow might bring. A man sitting next to Wu, a seafood seller named Lai, explained, “Where this leads all depends on how the government behaves.

Sources:

- “Wukan siege: rebel Chinese village holds memorial for fallen villager” from The Telegraph

- “Wukan siege: The fallen villager” from The Telegraph

- “Images from Wukan” from McClatchy’s China Rises Blog

- “Chinese Police With Shotguns Man Checkpoints at Wukan Village” from Bloomberg

- “Beijing Set to ‘Strike Hard’ at Revolt” from The Wall Street Journal

- “Wukan siege: First crack in the villagers’ resolve” from The Telegraph

- “Provincial Chinese Officials Seek to End Village Revolt” from The New York Times

- “Wukan Residents Continue Their Protest” from The New York Times

- “The Seeds of Wukan” from China Geeks (via YouTube)

- “In rebellious Wukan, China, a rare sight: No authorities” from McClatchy Newspapers