WUKAN, China, Sept. 14 (UPI) — A riot erupted in Wukan, a Chinese fishing village once lauded as the symbol of grassroots democracy, after activists who criticized the government were arrested.
Police shot rubber bullets and tear gas to hold back the protesting villagers after 13 people were rounded up in an early-morning raid. They were accused of spreading rumors, inciting mobs and disrupting public order. Demonstrators took to the streets to decry the arrests as unjust.
The raid comes less than a week after democratically elected leader Lin Zulian was sentenced to three years on corruption charges. Lin, a beloved local figure, helped villagers fight against governmental land seizures. Locals said Lin’s charges are false and have demanded his release.
The village is now on lockdown. No one is allowed to enter or leave without proper identification.
The struggles in Wukan came into the public eye in 2011 after locals held protests over land seizures to make way for development. Villagers said they were not being adequately compensated for the land taken by the government. In 2012, a local election was held, a rare occurrence that many saw as a sign of hope for future democracy in China.