China village defy officials, demand vote
By Bill Savadove, AFPSHANGPU, China--Villagers in southern China were locked in a standoff with authorities Sunday and were demanding democratic polls after a violent clash with thugs linked to a local official over a land transfer.
March 4, 2013, 12:26 am TWN
Just over a week ago, residents of Shangpu in Guangdong province fought with scores of attackers whom they claimed were sent by the village communist party chief and a business tycoon after they protested against a land deal.
Now police are blockading the settlement to outsiders while residents refuse to let officials inside, days before the annual meeting of the country's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).
The situation recalls a similar episode in Wukan, also in Guangdong and around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Shangpu, which made headlines worldwide 15 months ago.
AFP is believed to be the first Western media organization to enter Shangpu since the standoff began.
At the main entrance of the village of 3,000 people, 40 police and officials stood guard, barring outside vehicles from entering. Not far away, a cloth banner read: “Strongly request legal, democratic elections.”
Shangpu's two-story houses, typical of the region, and low-slung family-run workshops are surrounded by fields awaiting spring planting. But the main street is lined with the wrecks of cars damaged in the clash, with glass and metal littering the ground.
Residents said they should have the right to vote both for the leader who represents them and on whether to approve a controversial proposal to transform rice fields into an industrial zone.