Bloomberg News

Protesting Villagers in China Share Food as Supplies Run Out

December 29, 2011

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Protesters in the Southern Chinese village of Wukan have organized to distribute food to the poor as a nine-day police blockade left people short of supplies.

People in the village in Guangdong province have not been allowed to get food from the outside and are donating remaining supplies to the poor, Huang Rongbiao, a restaurant owner in Wukan, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Villagers are allowed to come and go from Wukan as long as they don’t bring in food supplies, Huang said.

“Maybe there’s enough food for now but I can’t guess how long that will last,” said Huang, who has kept his restaurant closed for 10 days. “Hopefully, the government will handle this and we are waiting for news.”

People were continuing to gather in Wukan’s main square to wait for news about the standoff, Huang said. The blockade began Dec. 10 after the death of a butcher, Xue Jinbo, in police custody led people to kick out local Communist Party officials and armed officers restricted villagers’ movements. Protests had taken place for months in Wukan over allegations that local officials were illegally grabbing land.

Several thousand protesters plan to march the three miles from Wukan to the town of Lufeng on Wednesday unless their farmland is returned, local officials are replaced and detainees are freed, the Associated Press reported.

Complaints Campaign

As the protests simmered in Wukan, China ordered police to begin a six-month campaign to improve how they deal with complaints from the public as the authorities face incidents of social unrest including a protest last week in the village of Wukan.

Police officers will be sent to households to help settle disputes and complaints, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on Dec. 17, citing Zhou Yongkang, who is in charge of the country’s security issues as a member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee.

The campaign will cement ties between the police and the people, Xinhua cited Zhou as saying. The Ministry of Public Security began the program on Dec. 16, Xinhua reported.

China’s Communist Party leaders are seeking to maintain stability in the world’s most-populous country, where three decades of growth averaging 10.1 percent a year has also led to increasing income disparities and outbreaks of social unrest.

Zhou’s written instructions to police called on officers to build a positive image during the campaign, according to Xinhua. The desirable “positive image” will only be possible by promptly addressing the most-attended security issues, Xinhua reported in the Dec. 17 article, citing Meng Jianzhu, China’s minister of public security.

Twitter Restrictions

Beijing, China’s capital, asked all users of Twitter-like microblog services to verify their identities, Xinhua reported last week, in a bid to tighten control of the world’s largest Internet market.

Chinese officials have pressured microblog services to strengthen supervision of users after a fatal rail crash in July sparked an outburst of criticism of the government. The sites should serve the Communist Party and stop the spread of “false and harmful information,” the nation’s top Internet regulator said in October.

Under the new rules, Beijing’s city government will ban users from setting up fake microblog accounts and sending messages containing state secrets and information that harms national security, Xinhua reported.

Wukan Block

Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service run by U.S.-listed Sina Corp., has blocked references to Wukan among other politically sensitive words, such as the Dalai Lama.

Xue, the Wukan butcher, died of heart failure, according to the local government. He was “suspected” of leading more than 400 villagers to “vent their anger” over a land dispute, Xinhua reported previously. Wukan is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Hong Kong in Guangdong Province.

Wukan village representative Lin Zulian addressed a crowd of more than 6,000 people on Dec. 17 and vowed to march on the main administrative town if government officials and police refuse to hand over Xue’s body within five days, according to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.

Communist Party officials began a probe of local officials and halted a real-estate development that sparked protests.

--Daryl Loo. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, John Liu

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Daryl Loo in Beijing at dloo7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Brinsley at jbrinsley@bloomberg.net


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