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Chinese villagers in rare revolt against authority mourn man who died in police custody
BEIJING (AP) ' A man from a southern Chinese fishing village whose death in police custody helped spark a rare revolt was given a hero's farewell Friday as thousands of tearful residents mourned what they called his "sacrifice" for them.
The village of Wukan has for months been the site of simmering protests by locals who say officials sold farmland to developers without their consent. Protests against official misconduct are increasingly common in fast-developing China, but Wukan residents have taken things a step further, erecting barricades over the weekend to keep police out and posing a challenge to the authoritarian government.
Residents said about 7,000 people attended Friday's memorial ceremony for local butcher Xue Jinbo, who before his death had been one of the village's representatives in tense negotiations with officials over the land seizure.
Banners saying "You sacrificed your life for our land" and "Sadly mourn Xue Jinbo" were prominently displayed at the ceremony, said villager Qin Zhuan, who was reached by phone.
Qin said they made speeches and lined up to bow in front of a large photograph of the man who died on Sunday, not long after he was detained by police on suspicion of participating in riots in September.
Expressing a commonly held suspicion over Xue's death, another villager said he appeared to have been abused in custody.
"He is man with a loving heart for people. He was killed for struggling to win the land for the villagers. We all cried for him," said villager Huang Hancan. "He must have suffered from mistreatment for a good healthy man to turn into a dead man just a day after being detained. No doubt, he was beaten to death and everyone can imagine that."
Chinese media have reported that local authorities say Xue died of cardiac failure.
In September, hundreds of Wukan villagers smashed buildings and clashed with police in protest against the sale of their farmland without their consent. Villagers since have submitted petitions and sought meetings with higher level officials without success.
Last Friday, police took away several village representatives and when police tried to return the next day, villagers blockaded the roads with tree trunks and barriers to stop them. Residents say police fired tear gas and water cannons at the villagers, who had armed themselves with sticks, clubs, hoes and other farming tools.