Lufeng, a city of 1.7 million, saw violent clashes with authorities earlier in the week, when villagers in the suburb of Wukan ransacked a government office and police station after riot police chased and beat up protesters.
No violence was reported in Saturday’s protests, with security forces noticeably absent.
“We don’t have weapons and armour, nor can we match them for strength, but we have the numbers to protect our village and the lives in it,” said Lin Zuliang, a farmer representative from Wukan who addressed a cheering crowd via loud speaker.
As China rapidly modernises, wrenching changes have stoked tens of thousands of so called “mass incidents” countrywide each year. Authorities often crackdown swiftly on such dissent, including censoring reports, fearful of trouble proliferating.
Villagers claim officials colluded with a score of developers to steal hundreds of hectares for development including a luxury holiday resort with salmon-pink luxury villas and a neon-lit nightclub sprouting out of former farmland.