14 Dec 2011

Besieged Chinese villagers vow to fight on

International Editor

Villagers in Wukan, south east China, who have driven out the local party officials over a row about a land deal, remain defiant despite being cut off by the authorities.

The row, which flared up in September, centres on the sale of land by the local party officials. The twenty thousand residents say they were paid a fraction of the true value in compensation and have mounted a vocal campaign against those same officials, all of whom have now been driven from the village.

Over the weekend several protest leaders were arrested and one later died in custody. His family accuse the police of brutality, but officials have said he died of a heart attack.

Since then the authorities have cut off water supplies, but the residents say they have enough supplies to hold out for at least ten days.

Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum writes: "Land disputes like this are common in China, but what is unusual here is that the villagers have succeeded in expelling the officials they accuse of corruption. The central authorities now have a choice: they can either send in large numbers of riot police to suppress this revolt or they will have to negotiate. In the past, local officials have been tried for corruption within the party system, but it's not clear whether this will satisfy the people of Wukan."