|Footage of protests showed villagers shouting: “Down with corrupt officials” [YouTube]|
A standoff between villagers and police is continuing in southern China, where police have sealed off the village of Wukan in an attempt to quell an uprising, witnesses say.
Villagers have taken control of the town after staging protests over government land seizures and the death of a village leader in police custody last week.
In response, authorities have cut off food supplies to the village of about 20,000 people in Guangdong province.
A journalist in the village told Al Jazeera that Wednesday was the fourth straight day of the siege, with no signs that the villagers would budge.
“Police tried to retake the village on Sunday with a thousand armed police firing teargas and water cannons at villagers,” Malcolm Moore of the British Daily Telegraph newspaper said.
“But villagers stood firm and police fell back to form a cordon around the village, now basically choking off all supplies of food and water, waiting for the village to surrender.
“There are no police or government officials left in the village. All of them have been driven out by angry villagers.”
Moore said he was told by locals that they had about 10 days of food supplies left and had no intention of giving up their resistance.
Tensions rose in September when protests by hundreds of villagers over a land dispute turned violent, with residents smashing buildings, overturning vehicles and clashing with police.
Residents complained that their farmland was sold by local officials to developers to build factories without their consent.
On Sunday, Xue Jinbo, a man accused of participating in the September land protest, died in police custody, further angering residents, who suspected he was beaten.
Chinese media reported that local police and provincial authorities said Xue died of cardiac failure.
The local seaport has been blocked, and residents said they were prevented from fishing.
Villager Qiu Yankun said even children who would normally have gone to school in a nearby town were staying at home because the school buses were not allowed to enter the village.
Amateur video posted online on Monday showed hundreds of villagers gathered for a protest, shouting “Down with corrupt officials” and “Give us back our land”.
Land disputes have grown apace, becoming one of the leading causes of the tens of thousands of large-scale protests that hit China every year.
Around Wukan village and in much of the rest of Guangdong province, conflicts have been intense because the area is among China’s most economically developed, pushing up land prices.