The Wukan saga may have finally come to an end, or at least the end of one chapter:
A tense standoff between rebellious villagers and local officials in this fishing town on China’s eastern coast appeared to come to an end Wednesday, though the tentative agreement did not untangle allegations of official corruption and land grabs.
Stretching more than a week, the takeover of Wukan from police and officials was arguably the most dramatic example of social unrest in a year marked by bursts of tumult around the country.
In a meeting earlier this week, the Chinese Communist Party secretary of the city with oversight of Wukan bemoaned the difficulty of dealing with common people during an address to officials in Shanwei.
Dressed in a black Ralph Lauren windbreaker, the pudgy man with bags under his eyes, Zheng Yanxiong, noted they are becoming “harder to control.”
The Communist Party secretary of Wukan, Xue Chang, ruled the village for decades in a style that residents described as dictatorial. Xue and another senior official in the village have reportedly been taken in for questioning. Locals, though, angrily pointed out that they had begged authorities for years to intervene and were ignored until staging a revolt.
The problem appeared so intractable that Wukan protest leaders dropped the return of their land from a list of demands presented to Guangdong’s deputy party secretary, Zhu Mingguo, on Wednesday morning. If no agreement had been reached in the meeting, organizers planned a march of thousands on a government building in the neighboring town of Lufeng – leaving open the possibility of a chaotic confrontation with police.
As to whether the calm would last, Lin sounded less confident, saying there could always be more trouble in the future.
The day before, thousands of people blocked a highway in a separate protest in Guangdong.
About 70 miles up the coast in the town of Haimen, the crowd was concerned about pollution to fishing waters from a proposed coal-fired power plant. There were unconfirmed but widely spread accounts that police dispersed the gathering with brutal beatings.