A Chinese town has been forced to abandon plans to build a crematorium after residents took a cue from protesters in Hong Kong by taking to the streets, chanting a similar slogan and setting up barricades.
Hundreds of people in Wenlou clashed with riot police after learning that the authorities had included a crematorium in a proposed £8 million ecological park without notifying the public. In China crematoria are seen as inauspicious.
The demonstrators in Wenlou, which is about 60 miles from Hong Kong, chanted “revolution now”. One villager told a newspaper: “Just like Hong Kong, the protests have broken out throughout the township.” A township is a municipality with its own governance.
Slogans of Hong Kong’s democratic movement have been reportedly heard at protests in a Chinese city 60 miles to the west.
According to Hong Kong-based Apple Daily—a vocal supporter of the democracy campaign in Hong Kong—chants of “Liberate Maoming! Revolution of our times!” were heard during several days of protest in Maoming.
The chant is a take on the “Liberate Hong Kong” slogan commonly used during protests across the border, where anti-government demonstrations have raged since June.
Protestors also reportedly told Apple Daily reporters that their movement was “just like you [in] Hong Kong.” Both cities share a common Cantonese language.
In confrontations that began last week, Maoming protesters pelted police with bricks and set off fireworks, forcing authorities to announce Sunday that they would not be building a crematorium on plot of unused land in the area. The long-running plan had infuriated residents, who had been promised an ecological park on the same site.
Protests against town planning are common in China, releasing pent-up anger at corruption and local officialdom. But the climbdown by authorities in Maoming is unusual, as is the reported decision to release some 200 protesters arrested in recent days.
Mainland Chinese authorities have heavily censored news around the demonstration, with searches of relevant protest keywords drawing up blanks on social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat. But videos purportedly filmed in Maoming, showing scuffles between protestors and police, have been circulating on Twitter.
Beijing is determined that calls for democracy in Hong Kong will not spread. News of the Hong Kong protests is censored and overland travelers from Hong Kong to China have reportedly had to unlock their phones for border officials looking for evidence of participation in, or support for, the unrest.