Five journalists from Hong Kong were sent back to the former British colony tonight after being detained in China when they were covering the repression of the authorities to the protests of the people of Wukan in Guangdong province.

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© Reuters

A strong police device is installed in the town since Tuesday to try to control the protests against the arrest of popular local democratically elected leader.

The local chief, Lin Zulian, was arrested in June for alleged misuse of public funds and, last week sentenced to three years in prison for corruption.

Journalists who were covering the events in the locality of the city of Lufeng – including those who were at the service of newspaper South China Morning Post, Ming Pao and HK01 – said they were held overnight.

According to one of the journalists, the Chinese police raided the house of a resident where they were staying around 21:00 local and took them, writes Radio and Public Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

The journalist said none offered resistance but were physically assaulted by police with fists and cracked.

The authorities asked the journalists to sign a statement promising not to return to Lufeng to make “illegal news coverage” and reports on Wukan, adds RTHK.

The journalists were held up at 03:00 local, having been put on a bus bound for the Chinese city of Shenzhen, from which they returned to Hong Kong.

With 15,000 inhabitants, Wukan, a coastal town in southern China, has become a popular symbol of resistance in 2011 when she starred one of the most celebrated democratic experiences of the country.

Protests against the illegal expropriation of land led to the resignation of the local leaders, accused of corruption, and the election of a new village committee by direct suffrage.

After the arrest of Lin Zulian, who spearheaded the protests, police said local residents “continued to launch rumors and insults, threats, force and bribe, aiming to instigate, plan and launch illegal mass demonstrations.”

“Disturbance of order and public transport“, justified the arrests announced this week, according to a statement issued by the local police.

After the arrests, residents clashed with police, who used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstration, said the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.

Videos and photos circulated on the Internet show the protesters, some of them bleeding, throwing stones at police.

The protests of 2011 in Wukan, were initially seen only as a popular uprising similar to the tens of thousands every year occurs in China.

The death of one of the leaders of the protests, police custody, however, led the residents to block the roads that give access to the village, managed to evict the security forces for over a week.

The Chinese Communist Party decided to back off and make rare conceptions, including investigating land disputes and allow local organizing free elections.

Lin Zulian, 70, was then appointed the local chief with 6,205 votes, a total of 6,812 voters by replacing a businessman who was accused of stealing land to sell to developers.

Last week, however, was sentenced to three years in prison for corruption, after admitting accepting bribes worth 590,000 yuan (80,150 euros).

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