“Pair take a stand in Wukan, China, but for how long?”

Tom Lasseter has a new article about Wukan, where the status quo holds for now:

Lin Zulian and Yang Semao are wanted men.

The mayor of the city that oversees this farming and fishing village has publicly named the pair as main agitators of Wukan’s recent rebellion against the local government. Acting Shanwei Mayor Wu Zili vowed to crack down on them and their allies, according to state media.

Such a threat would terrify most Chinese in a nation infamous for police state tactics. But on Friday morning, both men stood in front of a crowd of thousands here and railed against local corruption.

“The officials are lying to the villagers,” Yang said, standing behind a large photograph of Xue Jinbo, a fellow advocate who died in police custody Sunday. A few minutes later, he burst into tears that were echoed by heaving sobs from the rows of people in front of him.

While the open flouting of government rule in Wukan almost certainly won’t last very long — and it’s occurring only in one nook of one province — moments such as the rally Friday are breathtaking for an authoritarian state. The leaders of the revolt, which has sealed off the village from security checkpoints, are attempting to make the point that, as Lin said, “the people who have committed crimes are the corrupt officials.”

So far, Beijing is trying to contain Wukan’s message both physically — with police at the main road leading into the village — and in the realm of public opinion by censoring news and comments on the Internet.

In the meantime, officials are trying to drive a wedge between locals. Some residents have received text messages urging, “Please calm down, the leaders are already dealing with the problem.”

But calming the populace has become more complicated as China’s rocketing economic expansion runs parallel with strictures on political discourse, a combustible mix that gives officials access to riches at the same time that it restrains citizens’ ability to speak up.

Adding to the potential troubles, the government may have provided the rebels in Wukan with a martyr.

Xue Jinbo was part of a committee of 13 villagers, including Lin and Yang, that formed in September to negotiate with area officials after demonstrations and a police crackdown that month. After plainclothes security took Xue away last Friday, state media announced that he’d died Sunday of heart complications.

Xue’s family and seemingly everyone else in Wukan thinks that he was murdered, and they cite as proof the government’s refusal to release his body.

“For those who’ve seen my father’s body, they believe that he was beaten to death,” said Xue’s son, Xue Jiandi, a 20-year-old university student in a brown flannel shirt and jeans.

During memorial services Friday for Xue Jinbo, groups of villagers walked down a green carpet in groups of 30 to 40, stopping to bow in unison and pay their respects to a picture of him. Women wailed beneath a blue funeral tent.

The procession of mourners lasted for hours.

At one point, a man stood outside and yelled: “There is no body! There is no body!”

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Filed under housing bubble, housing demolition, local governments, protests

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