Heavily armored riot police fired tear gas as locals threw rocks and other projectiles amid ongoing unrest in Wukan, a village in China’s Guangdong province.
Protests broke out after authorities arrested 13 people involved in previous demonstrations, state media reported.
A witness in Wukan told CNN he had seen “riot police attacking villagers” and that “multiple people were injured.”
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the 13 detained overnight were arrested for disrupting public order and inciting illegal assemblies.
“Their behaviors have severely affected local life and production and exerted a bad influence. Police have therefore arrested the 13 according to law, in an effort to safeguard the interest of the masses and restore order,” local police said in a statement published online.
Videos and photos widely shared online, which could not be verified by CNN, showed large numbers of heavily armed riot police holding shields and firearms.
“Several thousand police cracked down on the protests staged by the villagers,” Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon told CNN, citing local sources.
Locals said police entered the village Tuesday at around 4 a.m. local time (4 p.m. Monday ET), but were fought off with bricks and bats, according to iCable, a CNN affiliate.
Poon said the village was now on lockdown, “no one can enter, information is blocked.”
“The atmosphere there is very tense,” he added.
Wukan has been a nexus of resistance to Chinese state control since 2011, when mass protests over land rights and corruption won a compromise that allowed the village to hold free elections, a rarity in Communist China and a move that made it world famous.
The winner of that election, protest leader Lin Zuluan, was arrested earlier this year and charged with taking bribes. He was sentenced to three years in prison after a televised confession in which he admitted to his crimes. Supporters have questioned whether the confession was forced, as others have been in the past.
Lin was reportedly planning renewed protests over disputed land deals before his arrest.
“Since June, the villagers have been staging protests,” Poon said. “This raised concern among local government officials, because there has also been information of neighboring villages having the potential for protests, that’s why they cracked down (in Wukan).”
Poon said Amnesty is concerned that since information is no longer getting out, many more arrests and detentions could take place without being reported.
In a statement published by the state-run Global Times newspaper before Tuesday’s protests, Yang Xusong, mayor of Shanwei, which oversees Wukan, said authorities have “addressed all of the Wukan villagers’ legitimate demands for land.”