By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, June 22: Residents of Wukan village in Guangdong province in southern China took to the streets and rallied demanding the release of their village chief.
On Saturday, Lin Zuluan was arrested on charges of taking bribes, days after he called for fresh mass protests over unresolved land takeover by the Chinese government.
The village leader later appeared on state television CCTV and confessed to taking bribes in exchange for government contracts and called it his ‘biggest criminal activity’.
The residents of the village rallied in thousands to support their arrested leader, calling it a forced confession amidst heavy police presence as Lin’s grandson was arrested a day earlier.
Chinese government, notorious for producing forced confession, has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups who called the practice “trial by CCTV”.
Lin’s wife, Yang Zhen told reporters “his confession was forced. This is just to trick people, he is very clean,” reports Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper.
Deploring the village Chief’s arrest, activists in Hong Kong also protested on Tuesday.
Local officials accused two Hong Kong news outlets covering the story in Wukan – newspaper Apple Daily and digital outlet Initium Media – of inciting and directing the protests, adding that they would “take measures in accordance with the law,” reports Sunday Morning Herald, June 22.
According to leaked censorship instructions to the media by the Chinese government, websites are strictly prohibited from releasing or re-publishing any news, photos, video, or information related to the mass incident in the village. All websites are to strictly control related commentary, firmly punish the accounts of those who maliciously distribute information, and report progress to superiors, reports China Digital Times June 21.
After months of unrest in 2011, Chinese government agreed to allow democratic elections in Wukan to end protests and Lin Zuluan became China’s first democratically-elected mayor.