HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Clashes erupted in a Chinese village known for its grassroots push for democracy after at least 13 people were arrested by the police in pre-dawn raids on Tuesday (Sept 13), according to Hong Kong media and residents.
The raids in Wukan fishing village, in the southeast province of Guangdong, came less than a week after a popular and democratically elected village chief, Lin Zuluan, was sentenced to three years imprisonment on graft and other charges.
One person in touch with relatives in Wukan told Reuters between 300-400 police were involved in the raids, and many villagers were injured.
The person added the village was now in police lockdown, and that internet connections were down.
Videos obtained by Hong Kong’s RTHK from villagers show hundreds of police in riot gear confronting at least several dozen villagers marching with Chinese national flags on Tuesday morning.
The Hong Kong government-funded radio station and website reported that the police had used tear gas and rubber bullets in the operation. Photos on social media purporting to be from Wukan showed villagers with wounds that appeared to be from rubber bullets.
The RTHK footage also showed villages throwing rocks at huddled ranks of police equipped with riot shields.
One video obtained by RTHK shows a loud bang and a flash going off near dozens of policemen huddled in formation behind shields.
Reuters cannot independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
The official microblog of Lufeng county police, which oversees Wukan, stated in a post on Tuesday the suspects had been organising illegal assemblies and used threats to force villagers to join since June 19, a day after Lin was detained.
Since mid June, thousands of people in the village participated in a series of marches to protest Lin’s arrest.
In 2011, Wukan made international headlines when villagers ransacked the police station and government offices in protest against landgrabs and corruption. After months of demonstrations, the government fired the former village chief and villagers voted in many protest leaders.