Power to the people: Villagers win protest against Chinese government

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The Independent Online

After a tense stand-off lasting nearly two weeks, residents in the southern Chinese fishing village of Wukan agreed to take down their banners and get back to normality after winning key concessions from the authorities, which will see detained protesters released and land returned to farmers.

Tree trunks blocking the roads in and out of the village were removed yesterday and armed police stepped down from their checkpoints. Whether things get back to normal will depend on the government sticking to its promises, but no matter what happens, the villagers have brought international attention to their situation.

"Because this matter has been achieved, we won't persist in making noise," one of the protest organisers, Yang Semao, told a hall of local representatives and reporters in the fishing village of 20,000. For months, Wukan has seen protests by locals angry at the sale of local agricultural land to developers without their consent. Villagers drove out local officials and police almost two weeks ago after key village representatives were taken away. One detainee, a butcher named Xue Jinbo, died in custody. The police say he died of heart failure, but locals believe he was tortured and beaten.

The authorities had taken a hard line throughout the protests, but were forced into concessions after villagers this week said they would march to government headquarters in nearby Lufeng, which would have led to a more serious confrontation with police.