David Wertime

Wukan 2.0? Evidence Mounts Panhe Uprising Is Real

Perhaps Wukan may be what many netizens are calling “the spark that sets the prairie ablaze.” As Tea Leaf Nation recently reported, China’s blogosphere is abuzz with rumors of a citizen uprising in Panhe Village in Zhejiang province. As with last year’s Wukan uprising, citizens there allegedly grew infuriated over the local government’s sale of land to developers, then booted the local officials out of the village to establish their own government.

Evidence increasingly suggests the rumors are true. Censors have been hard at work, “harmonizing” out of existence all related videos posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter and Youku, China’s Youtube. However, Tea Leaf Nation has been able to unearth higher-resolution photographs of the apparent citizen demonstration.

As reported on the Internet portal China.com, the Panhe Village Committee spent the last several years selling off piece after piece of Panhe’s land, all without the villagers’ knowledge. On June 11, 2011, a Wenzhou copper company brought thugs and local police as it began to mine pieces of ancestral land, leading to a confrontation that saw villagers injured, including women and the elderly. The report further states that after villagers’ attempts to report the matter were ignored, they retaliated on October 16, 2011 by attacking the property of another local company. In response, the report continues, the local government arrested nine villagers, two of whom are still in custody.

World Journal, a popular Chinese-language newspaper in North America, reports that government officials and police fled the small village of approximately 5,000 in October of last year following a violent confrontation with villagers in which more than ten were arrested. The reports agree that villagers’ demands for compensation were substantially ignored by authorities.

According to World Journal, the Wukan uprising’s ultimate success inspired Panhe villagers to decide to hold widespread demonstrations starting February 1.  Since that time, the report continues, demonstrators have circled the village unmolested. The street demonstrations shown in photographic accounts include demonstrators waving banners with slogans such as, “Denounce the Local Panhe Government’s Deceit Of The Masses,” “Down With Corrupt Officials,” and “Reselling Land And Destroying Fertile Farmland Is A Heinous Crime.”

As Tea Leaf Nation has previously reported, netizens have expressed almost universal admiration for the alleged protesters. Many have cited Wukan as a “good model” for dispossessed villagers to follow, with @该用户已被管理员删除 asking if the Panhe incident is “Wukan 2.0?” Many simply wrote “给力” (gei li), literally “give strength,” a slang term showing support. Others expressed amazement that government censors have not yet managed to delete all Panhe-related material, although online videos appear to be early victims.

In the alleged incident, netizens see their own interests at play. For @龙城飞将的空间, the food supply is at stake: “The victims are not only our farmer brothers; arable land is continuously decreasing. In the future, what are we going to eat?” For @川北老李, the putative incident shows “[we should] not expect reform from the top down…I only fear reform from the bottom up will be very bloody.” @牢笼内外 invoked American values in an English-language post that was imperfect, but whose ideals were clear: “From the people, by the people, for the people.”

One blogger even wrote a Chinese-language poem with coded references to “ducks that resemble soldiers” that were “chased away last year but still linger on the far shore.” The poem ends, “Although I do not know where Panhe is/I know that when water flows together there will certainly be limitless ‘enchantment’.”

More photos from China’s blogosphere are below. You can access additional photos via this Google plus account.

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.