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June 27, 2017

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China detains second leader of rebel village

BEIJING--Chinese prosecutors have detained on bribery charges a deputy chief of a village which attracted worldwide attention when it rebelled against its Communist leaders, a local government website said.

Hong Ruichao, one of the leaders of the 2011 uprising in the southern village of Wukan which saw locals drive out Communist Party officials accused of illegal land grabs, was held on Wednesday, according to the official blog of Lufeng city, which administers Wukan.

The report suggests a further blow to villagers' hopes of retrieving their land after state-run media reported that another deputy chief, Yang Semao, was detained on similar charges last week.

The Lufeng city government said that the bribery charges against Hong were connected to "building projects", without giving details.

Some villagers insisted Hong was innocent. "This is arbitrary and illegal, we call for the release of Hong," Wukan resident Zhuang Liehong wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

In 2011 the villagers of Wukan mounted huge protests, and only relented when provincial authorities granted elections -- seen as a breakthrough for citizens' rights in a state that quashes unrest when local officials requisition land to sell to developers at huge profit.

But the elation faded as the rebels-turned-officials discovered it was beyond their power to wrangle land back from unwilling city authorities, influential companies and a web of legally binding plot sales.

Yang Semao told AFP in December that out of about 6,500 mu (430 hectares or 1,100 acres) of land being sought, villagers had retrieved only a little over 10 percent, while around a third was effectively gone forever.

He admitted the new village committee had lost the support of many residents, saying: "They don't trust us because we haven't met their interests."

China's official Xinhua news agency previously reported that 330 hectares of land had been returned to the village.

Wukan held another election last week and a new 11-strong leadership will be formed early next month, it reported.

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