Four people wanted by police under suspicion of assembling crowds to disrupt public order in Wukan turned themselves in on Wednesday and Thursday, according to lufengshi.net, an online forum for Lufeng county.
Scenes of unrest have rocked the Guangdong village which was allowed to elect its own leaders in 2011 following long-running land disputes. Weeks of protest erupted after their elected village chief Lin Zuluan was detained by police under suspicion of taking bribes. He was sentenced to three years and one month in jail last Thursday as 13 others were arrested from the “rebel” village. Residents gathered again in protest on Tuesday, clashing with police who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds amid a media blackout.
A post on the forum by a user identifying themselves as a reporter said four netizens accused of “spreading false information” have received different levels of punishment. Of these, a person in Shenzhen named Cai has been criminally detained for claiming an elderly woman died after being shot.
The authorities have denied that there have been any fatalities, though HK01 reports that the granddaughter of an 83-year-old named Qian Xiuyin was unable to locate her after she was hit by rubber bullets.
Other images and video footage of injured residents have emerged online throughout the week.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) September 14, 2016
According to Hong Kong media, minors and seniors held by the Lufeng police on Thursday were released to allow them to go home for the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. Two remain wanted by authorities.
Shenzhen woman detained
Police in neighbouring Shenzhen gave a woman a ten-day administration sentence at a detention centre after she arrested for “spreading rumours.” On Thursday, Huang Meijuan’s husband said on Twitter that she was detained after sharing an article from US-funded Voice of America on her WeChat account.
On Wednesday night, five journalists from Hong Kong outlets Ming Pao, the South China Morning Post, and HK01 were taken away and questioned by police as they reported from Wukan.
Carlos Lauría, Programme Director at the US-based press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists said: “Detaining, threatening, and harassing journalists – these are the actions of a government desperate to censor any news of protests of significant public interest.”
A joint statement from the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, Independent Commentators Association and Journalism Educators for Press Freedom condemned the media crackdown.
“[I]n recent years, Hong Kong journalists have been repeatedly subject to interference and brutal treatment at the hands of law enforcement agents and people of unknown identity while reporting in the Mainland,” the statement read. “In this latest incident, the Hong Kong journalists were unreasonably and violently muzzled. The four groups call on the Hong Kong SAR government to follow up on the incident, to safeguard the personal safety of Hong Kong journalists, and to take effective measures to protect journalists’ reporting rights.”
Additional reporting: Catherine Lai.