Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back

The Telegraph - Something extraordinary has happened in the Chinese village of Wukan.

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.

Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.

Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.

Wukan’s troubles began in September, when the villagers’ collective patience snapped at an attempt to take away their land and sell it to property developers.

“Almost all of our land has been taken away from us since the 1990s but we were relaxed about it before because we made our money from fishing,” said Yang Semao, one of the village elders. “Now, with inflation rising, we realise we should grow more food and that the land has a high value.”

The news of Wukan’s loss has been censored inside China. But a blue screen, which interrupts television programmes every few minutes inside the village, insists that the “incidents” are the work of a seditious minority, and have now been calmed. “It is all lies,” said Ms Xue.

With enough food to keep going in the short-term and a pharmacy to tend to the sick, the leaders of Wukan are confident about their situation.

But it is difficult to imagine that it will be long before the Communist Party returns, and there are still four villagers in police custody.

“I have just been to see my 25-year-old son,” Shen Shaorong, the mother of Zhang Jianding, one of the four, said as she cried on her knees. “He has been beaten to a pulp and his clothes were ripped. Please tell the government in Beijing to help us before they kill us all,”