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China agrees to talks with protest villagers
Villagers postpone plans for march on government offices over land seizure grievances as party officials agree to talks.
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2011 11:03
Lin Zuluan was among Wukan villagers to hold talks with Communist Party officials [Reuters]

Residents of a southern Chinese village have postponed plans to march on government offices after a senior official agreed to meet village leaders.

Protests against land seizures have been ongoing in Wukan in Guangdong province since September, however, the current unrest was escalated by the detention of five villagers by police more than a week ago and the death of one of them in police custody on December 11.

Authorities say Xue Jinbo died of heart failure but his supporters believe he was beaten to death.

Plans for a protest were suspended after Zhu Mingguo, a deputy provincial Communist Party secretary, met with villagers on Tuesday and called their demands legal, reasonable and ethical. 

"We are not marching now, because we are happy now. Things are going pretty well,'' Qiu Yankun, a villager, told the Associated Press news agency.

Investigation pledged

Villagers said Zhu also pledged to investigate allegations of illegal land seizures.

Xue Jinbo's death triggered a rare
show of dissent [Al Jazeera]

Along with the release of the detainees, the villagers are demanding the return of seized farmland and the dismissal of corrupt local officials who colluded with developers in return for bribes.

Huang Hancan, a village representative, said provincial authorities appeared sincere in their desire to resolve the conflict, but he said he would wait to hear what specific proposals Zhu offered at a meeting scheduled for later Wednesday.

Wukan, which has about 20,000 residents, has for months been the site of simmering protests over the land grabs, an endemic problem in China driven by poor legal safeguards, high housing costs and local government's appetite for revenue.

The issue is a leading cause of thousands of reported incidents of unrest striking China each year.

Despite government censorship, the protests have drawn considerable interest online, with prominent intellectuals posting comments and photos about them.

On Tuesday, a separate protest took place in Haimen, also in the Guangdong province, over local government plans to build a power plant, which has now been rejected.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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