A LOCAL official in city of Shanwei in Guangdong province has blamed Hong Kong media outlets for a recent spate of unrest in a fishing village in mainland China, which is currently under police lockdown.
Some 2,000 residents of Wukan village are demonstrating against the arrest of their democratically-elected village chief, Lin Zuluan, which took place over the weekend.
Lin had been organizing a protest over illegal land grabs by previous government officials.
Chinese authorities claimed he was under investigation on suspicion of bribery, and state media reported that he had made a video confession to police saying that he had taken kickbacks, which was televised on Tuesday.
Coverage of what has been happening in Wukan by Hong Kong and overseas media led Shi Shuoyan, the head of the Shanwei government press office, to say during a press conference: “We welcome overseas media to interview and report, according to the law and regulations, objectively and fairly.
“However, a few overseas media, such as the Apple Daily and Initium Media, have been inciting, planning and directing in Wukan. We will take measures according to the law.”
Apple Daily’s chief editor Chan Pui-man, however, denied allegations that the newspaper was involved in the protests.
“We traveled up to cover the news, surely not to do those things he claimed,” she said, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The SCMP also said in its report that “it is thought to be the first time Hong Kong media have been directly named and accused of planning and directing mass protests in mainland China”.
This is thought to be the first time Hong Kong media have been directly accused of planning mass protests in China https://t.co/hfxVnsR1rr
— SCMP News (@SCMP_News) June 21, 2016
On Monday, prosecutors in Lufeng city, which administratively covers Wukan, said Lin had “voluntarily confessed” that he had received bribes by contracting out infrastructure projects.
However, many villagers believe that he is innocent and doubted the authenticity of the ‘confession’, saying that it was probably forced, reported Reuters.
Five years ago, Wukan became a symbol of defiance against China’s ruling Communist Party after villagers rioted over land disputes and corruption, expelling government officials and police during a week-long standoff.
Additional reporting by Associated Press