[Wukan] Un Sidi Bouzid chinois

Il existe en 2011 un village peuplé d’irréductibles Chinois. Située au sud de la Chine, dans la province industrielle du Guangdong, la localité côtière de Wukan est, depuis plusieurs semaines, le théâtre d’une lutte pour le moins inédite. D’après le New York Times, près d’un millier de policiers encerclent le village de 13’000 habitants, devenu en quelques semaines le symbole du combat des paysans chinois contre leur gouvernement. Tout commence en septembre dernier, lorsque les habitants de ce village de bord de mer se voient confisquer leurs terres par Pékin, pour être ensuite revendues à de riches promoteurs immobiliers.

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Manifestation de mercredi

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Manifestation de jeudi

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Manifestation de mardi

Un procédé d’autant plus illégal qu’il n’est suivi de la moindre compensation. Furieux du sort qui leur est réservé, des milliers de « Wukanois » descendent alors dans la rue. Mais les manifestations dégénèrent. Des voitures de police sont détruites, des immeubles gouvernementaux saccagés. Après deux journées d’émeutes sans précédent, la police est déployée, et la révolte étouffée. Or, fait rare dans l’empire du Milieu, les autorités vont néanmoins accepter de négocier avec les villageois, à condition qu’ils nomment un groupe de 13 représentants. Parmi eux, Xue Jinbo, un boucher de 42 ans.

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Le portrait du martyr Xue Jinbo sur le portail du commissariat déserté

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Les locaux de l'administration d'État mis à sac

Or la proposition gouvernementale n’était qu’un leurre. Très vite, un responsable local accuse les nouveaux représentants de complicité avec « des forces étrangères cherchant à créer des divisions entre le gouvernement chinois et ses villageois ». Les manifestations reprennent de plus belle. Mais, une nouvelle fois, Pékin a tout prévu. Pour éviter toute contamination de la gronde sociale au reste du pays, la police dresse un blocus autour du village, tandis que d’autres de ses membres en civil parviennent à s’infiltrer à l’intérieur du village.

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Manifestation du 23 septembre

L’assaut est lancé, et cinq représentants, dont le boucher Xue Jinbo, sont enlevés. Deux jours plus tard, c’est avec effroi que les paysans apprennent son décès. D’après l’agence officielle Chine nouvelle, l’un des seuls médias à évoquer les troubles, le villageois est mort d’une « défaillance cardiaque », d’autant plus qu’« aucune trace apparente de violence » n’a été constatée sur son corps. Des proches affirment pourtant avoir retrouvé la victime avec des contusions sur les genoux, des narines maculées de sang et des pouces cassés.

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Rassemblement du 23 septembre

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Pétition du 23 septembre à Lufeng

« Nous supposons que les menottes ont laissé des marques sur ses poignets, et que les légères contusions sur les genoux sont dûs au fait qu’il était agenouillé », s’est contenté de répondre le chef adjoint du centre de médecine légale de l’université Zhongstan, selon Chine nouvelle. Une version qui n’a pas convaincu la population de Wukan, qui a immédiatement repris son mouvement de protestation, déterminée à aller jusqu’au bout. « Nous voulons que le gouvernement central (à Pékin) s’occupe de notre problème. Nous n’abandonnerons pas la lutte, nous voulons que les cadres corrompus soient arrêtés », a annoncé un manifestant, qui a requis l’anonymat, à l’AFP. D’après le New York Times, les frondeurs s’attelleraient désormais à dresser des barricades et se défendraient avec des armes « made in Wukan » [“villagers had stockpiled crude weapons, including steel-tipped bamboo spears”].

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« Vendre les terres agricoles de la population de Wukan, c’est vendre les intérêts de la population de Wukan »

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« C’est à chacun qu’il revient de combattre la corruption »

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Le blocus policier du village mercredi

Mais, face à eux, les autorités ont décidé d’employer les grands moyens. Pour « assurer la stabilité », la police, les forces anti-émeute ainsi que les pompiers sont désormais déployés autour du village avec des canons à eau. Pékin compte ainsi affamer sa population, pour la forcer à se rendre. Mais celle-ci peut néanmoins compter sur les dons de nourriture en provenance de villages voisins. Dès lors, le gouvernement a annoncé que le corps du boucher décédé ne serait remis à sa famille que lorsque les protestations cesseront. Totalement isolé du reste de la Chine, le village rebelle l’est également sur Internet. En effet, il n’existe sur la Toile chinoise aucune trace de Wukan.

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Leur presse (Armin Arefi, Le Point, 14 décembre 2011)

In rebellious Wukan, China, a rare sight: No authorities

WUKAN, China — It’s the Chinese Communist Party’s nightmare in miniature: Locals stage protests against their land being taken away by shady real estate deals, police respond with heavy-handed tactics and suddenly, with years of frustration and allegations of official corruption bottled up, an entire village erupts in open revolt.

That’s exactly what’s happened in Wukan, a fishing and farming community of some 20,000 people on China’s eastern coast.

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The main road leading into town has been blocked by a police checkpoint on one end, and at the other by dozens of villagers manning a tall barricade of tree branches and boards with nails sticking out.

A McClatchy Newspapers reporter was able to slip into Wukan on Thursday night, apparently the first American news organization to do so, with the help of a local who had detailed knowledge of winding routes that skirted police positions in roads outside the village.

Village officials and police had fled the town, leaving government offices empty in the shadows of street signs.

The result is almost unthinkable in today’s China: A swath of land no longer under the direct management of the Communist Party and its functionaries.

“The government officials pushed us too far. We had to fight,” said an 18-year-old man surnamed Wu, who like many in Wukan didn’t want his full name used for fear of reprisals when the might of the state returned.

The living rooms of Wukan were filled with people trying to fathom what tomorrow might bring. A man sitting next to Wu, a seafood seller named Lai, explained, “Where this leads all depends on how the government behaves.”

Lai was plainly grappling with what life without an authoritarian government means, no matter how brief the window might be.

“The land seizures are what made us upset,” he said. He added, “I’m 31 years old but I’ve never voted in my life.”

While the standoff at Wukan doesn’t threaten to spark wider unrest in China, the underlying issues are similar to those that have presented problems for the Chinese Communist Party across the nation.

In the village, as with much of China, people took pains to say they blamed immoral and greedy officials in the area, though they didn’t extend their criticism to central leadership in Beijing or the Communist Party as a whole.

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The trouble in Wukan erupted, locals said, after years of unanswered petitions to provincial authorities asking for help adjudicating land grabs that they claimed were being orchestrated by village and neighboring city officials.

In September, a protest over land issues was met by a rush of baton-waving police officers. Cellphone video footage showed villagers being kicked to the ground and pummeled. A crowd quickly formed at the police station and began destroying vehicles. In the aftermath, two officials were fired and authorities agreed to negotiate lingering problems with a group of village representatives.

It seemed that peace had returned. Then plainclothes security detained five of the village representatives last Friday. Two days later, one of them, a 42-year-old merchant named Xue Jinbo, died in custody.

Officials blamed a heart problem, and state media interviewed a medical expert who explained that the bruises on his body “might be related to handcuffs and the grabbing by prison officials while sending Xue to the hospital, and a large number of purplish spots found on the backside of the body are just normal discoloration from blood gathering after death.”

Everyone interviewed in Wukan was certain that Xue had been beaten to death. On Sunday, villagers drove back a large contingent of police and the lines were drawn.

The village scene as dusk fell Thursday seemed to partly rebut Chinese officials’ long-standing argument that without tightly controlled governance all would be chaos. Life seemed almost normal in Wukan. Men sat around card tables. Young people wandered the sidewalks telling jokes and laughing.

There were worries about how long food supplies would last, but a few grocery stands were open with no sign of looting.

Standing outside the empty police station’s gates, a 17-year-old surnamed Lin explained that security officers in the village caused more trouble than they saved.

“It doesn’t matter that there are no police here,” said Lin, a thin youth wearing a black and white scarf. “When they were here, they had no sense of responsibility.”

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Across China, displays of discontent with local governments — despite the best efforts of official censors — often tap into nationwide anger about issues such as corruption, income disparity and, more broadly, a growing sense that the country’s rulers and those linked to them are above the law.

The setting itself said much about the social complexities that threaten to chip away at the nation’s economic success of the past three decades. Wukan sits in Guangdong province, an epicenter of China’s manufacturing and export industry that’s seen several recent episodes of unrest.

On Thursday evening, men with walkie-talkies zipped around the village on scooters, relaying updates on one another’s movements and guard rotations at their checkpoint.

The father of one of the village representatives who was taken away and still not released, Zhang Shuimei, was discussing the situation with a group of friends. He carefully pulled out a small photograph of his son, Zhang Jiancheng, to show to a reporter: “He just wanted to get our land back.”

A man seated to his right, a 43-year-old with tobacco-stained teeth named Yang, who repairs motors on fishing boats, said: “To get our land back, we would have to buy it and we can’t afford that.”

The group got quiet for a moment as it digested the thought.

A 56-year-old carpenter named Huang Deping leaned forward in his chair and said that no matter what happened, “the point is not that they (officials) fled, the point is that we fought them until they left.”

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Leur presse (Tom Lasseter, The Miami Herald, 15 décembre 2011)

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