UPDATE 4: Malcolm Moore has posted a new story on this, which I highly recommend you read in its entirety right here. Also added another image from Weibo.
UPDATE 3: Additional images from Weibo added, section on Weibo censorship added at the end of the post.
UPDATE 2: One of the accounts posting images from inside Wukan — a young man who lives there — has been closed by Sina. Clearly, they’re taking this pretty seriously. I know of two other Weibo accounts from users inside Wukan, but I wonder how quickly their accounts will be closed, too. Also, Malcolm Moore tweeted that the villagers estimate they have food enough left for ten days.
UPDATE 1: Malcolm Moore has posted some more details on his time in the village — and how he got in there — here (you may need a Google Plus account to see that. I have also added an additional large image to the selection of photos from Weibo.
The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore published an explosive story today about Wukan, the village in southern China that is now in open rebellion against the local government. This story has been developing for several months, but Moore’s piece from inside the blocked-off town (no idea how he’s managed that) is one of the best and most comprehensive pieces I’ve seen yet. I highly recommend that you click this link right now and read the entire story. I’ll wait here.
Ok, finished? Great. Beyond that, Moore has been live updating this morning via his Twitter account, posting additional photos and information. As of this writing, the most interesting of those is this tidbit, from around 11 AM this morning:
The rumour in Wukan is CCTV may be coming on Dec 16, so the police may try and reassert control before then
I don’t think I need to explain the ways in which this event is amazing, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word. Anyone with a funtional brain and half an eye on the Chinese media is aware that local government land grabs are a huge source of discontent, but if you’d told me a few months ago that a Chinese town would band together, run the local officials out of town, resist a force of 1,000 police officers intent on entering the town again (but, thankfully, not willing to use lethal force to do so, at least not yet), establish their own makeshift government, and keep the whole thing running even this long, I would have told you you were nuts.
Before we go any further, I want to get this out of the way: no, this is not the first spark in some nationwide rebellion that will see the national government overthrown. In fact, it’s not even a rebellion against the central government, as you can tell from the pleas for help from Beijing in Moore’s article.
Still, it puts Beijing in an awfully interesting position. As I see it, they have three basic options:
- Come to the rescue of the down, declare the local government officials corrupt, put them on trial and restore order peacefully. This is, I suspect, exactly what the people in Wukan want.
- Come to the rescue of the officials and provide them enough manpower to completely crush the rebellion. This would be easy, but would attract a lot of negative attention internationally, and there’s a risk of it leaking online domestically, too.
- Do nothing for the time being, and see if the officials can regain control on their own, or if the rebellion spreads.
The last option seems by far the most likely to me, which is good and bad news for the protesters in Wukan. No help is coming from Beijing, but at least that means the PLA probably isn’t coming either.
Of course, the central government isn’t really doing nothing, as mentions of Wukan
are being scrubbed from the media and deleted online. As you would expect, searching for “Wukan” on Weibo gives you the classic “According to the relevant laws, these results can’t be displayed” message. But weibo is a tough thing to keep completely clean, and there are some folks giving updates from inside the town. Here, for example, are some photographs from the past few days that I found on Sina Weibo:
How exactly the siege will play out isn’t yet clear, but I’ll be keeping as close an eye on it as possible, and if you’re not already following Malcolm Moore, that’s something you’re going to want to do. I truly hope this situation can be resolved in a way that gives justice to the villagers — especially the family of the deceased — without further bloodshed, but I’m not sure how likely that is.
If the police do attempt to enter the village again, I’d guess they’ll be using something a bit more serious than tear gas. And the villagers may not have the firepower to compete with guns, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying. Another update from Malcolm Moore around noon reads:
I’m sitting on a balcony, looking over the village, and above a tidy pile of steel-tipped bamboo spears.
Citizens of Wukan are attempting to spread news of their movement via Weibo, but unsurprisingly, posts and accounts are being deleted with great speed. The account through which I found several of the photos above has already been entirely deleted by Sina — attempting to access it suddenly returns a “user does not exist” error. The pages of other Weibo users in Wukan look an awful lot like this young man’s page, in which every single thing he’s retweeted over the past few days has since been deleted:
In addition, at least one Wukan resident was seen complaining on Weibo that Tencent had shuttered his QQ profile, presumably because it included information about what’s happening in Wukan.
[First image via the Telegraph]