Residents of Wukan village may soon end their long-running protest against land seizures by the government, as provincial officials have entered into talks with the village leaders. In contrast, over a hundred kilometers away in Haimen, residents have promised renewed protests despite officials’ willingness to suspend a coal power plant project. Wukan and Haimen are both located in the coastal province of Guangdong, which is among China’s most economically developed areas.
Wukan protests wind down as negotiations begin.
A deputy chief from the provincial Communist Party committee and a party secretary have begun negotiations with representatives from Wukan village. The villages are eager to arrive at some compromise regarding their collectively owned farm and forest land, which they claim has been sold illegally to developers without their consent. They were further angered by the recent death of one of their leaders, Xue Jinbo, who died of an alleged cardiac failure while under police custody. Villagers believe he was beaten and died as a result of his injuries.
Villagers drove out local officials and police after key village representatives were taken away. Riot police have set up roadblocks to prevent food from being transported in, but the villagers remained determined to protest the government. The government has announced it intends to release the villagers under police custody, and food supplies have begun to reenter Wukan.
The negotiations now underway between village leaders and government officials have likely come out of a decision by Wang Yang, one of China’s most prominent political leaders, and an unspoken candidate for a spot on China’s ruling body, the Politburo, when a turnover occurs next year.
The provincial committee deputy chief party to the Wukan negotiations, Mr Zhu Mingguo, is among Wang’s lieutenants.
Haimen protesters demand action, protest deaths
Northeast of Wukan village, residents claim a 15-year-old boy and middle-aged woman have died, and over 100 have sustained injuries after police fired tear gas and beat protesters on Tuesday, while a Hong Kong newssource claims there have been six deaths. The deaths of the villagers have not yet been confirmed, but the rumors have severely angered residents of Haimen, who remain unhappy despite officials’ claim that they will suspend work on the disputed power plant project.
According to Chinese state media, an expansion of the power plant in the area had failed environmental tests, and levels of toxic metals found in surrounding waterways exceeded safe levels. The pollution of waterways is common in China; a result of three decades of high-geared economic growth which have incited widespread protests across China. The province of Guangdong, where Haimen is located, is the Chinese manufacturing hub.
Villagers remain unhappy with the government decision, as they want the power plant project to be stopped, not temporarily suspended.
Wukan and Haimen: precursors to a Jasmine Revolution?
Protests like the ones in Wukan and Haimen are not unusual in China—thousands of protests occur each year in various towns and villages over a range of of issues, like pollution, corruption and land-grabbing, according to Reuters. However, due to their proximity to Hong Kong, the Wukan and Haimen protests have been especially visible to observers out of China, grabbing headlines all around the world and prompting many to wonder if China will see unrest boil over into a “Jasmine Revolution.”
This may not be the case. AFP reports that the villagers maintained that they were loyal to the Communist Party, blaming a handful of corrupt government officials for their woes. One Wukan villager claimed she was flooded with relief when she heard Communist Party officials were stepping in to handle negotiations.
The most recent reports indicate no agreement has been reached in Wukan. In China, the word “Haimen” has since been censored in the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and a search using its Chinese characters “cannot be displayed” as it is not in accordance with “relevant laws, regulations and policies.”