Police have locked down the village of Wukan in southern China and arrested the local leader who reportedly planned anti-corruption protests. Residents of Wukan rose up against the authorities several years ago.
Authorities set up checkpoints at the entrances to the village, a witness in Wukan said on Saturday.
Hundreds of riot police reportedly moved into Wukan during the night and arrested the 72-year old village chief Lin Zuluan (photo). He is suspected of using "his power to elicit bribes," regional office for public security said on Saturday.
The arrest, however, comes only days after Lin announced plans for a large protest against alleged land grabs and illegal construction in the village of 13,000 people.
"They are all liars who say one thing and do another. They are incompetent to be officials and should be kicked off," a public notice in the fishing settlement said. "We cannot trust them anymore. We shall solve the problems ourselves."
No 'soft hand'
The villagers rebelled against authorities in 2011 over similar complaints, with current mayor Lin leading the uprising. The protests saw residents clash with police and erect barricades to keep security forces out. One of the protest leaders died in police custody.
After a months-long standoff, the Chinese communist party agreed to sack the former village chief and allow new elections, which the protesting faction won in a landslide. Wukan also made global headlines as a symbol of grass-roots defiance.
On Saturday, however, regional officials warned the villagers against retaliatory action, saying that they would "absolutely not use a soft hand" to deal with troublemakers.
"Do not let a law-breaking minority encourage you to commit radical acts," they said.
The local residents tried to surround the police station in protests and several people were arrested, a villager told Reuters.
"Everyone is very angry but we can't do much right now, there are police everywhere. It's very tense," the source said.
Residents of rural China often accuse local officials of colluding with property developers to confiscate and sell land.
dj/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)