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Chinese villagers defy government in standoff over land rights

Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images

Residents of Wukan, a fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong, rally to demand the government take action over illegal land grabs and the death in custody of a local leader on Dec. 15, 2011.

AFP - Getty Images

Residents prepare for the funeral of Xue Jinbo, a local leader who died in police custody, in Wukan on Dec. 15, 2011.

Reuters reports from

Villagers in southern China on Thursday defied authorities and continued protests over a death in custody and land dispute in the latest outburst of simmering rural discontent that is eroding the ruling Communist Party's grip at the grassroots.

Many hundreds of residents in Wukan Village in Guangdong province held an angry march and rally despite moves by authorities to halt a land project at the center of the months-long unrest and detain local officials involved.

"The whole village is distraught and enraged. We want the central government to come in and restore justice," said one resident who described the scene.

AFP - Getty Images

Residents of Wukan march to demand the government take action over illegal land grabs and Xue Jinbo's death on Dec. 15, 2011.

He and another resident, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said villagers remain enraged over last weekend's death in custody of Xue Jinbo, 42, who was detained on suspicion of helping organize protests against land seizures.

"We won't be satisfied until there is a full investigation and redress for Xue Jinbo's death," said the second resident.

"If you say he wasn't beaten to death, then you can show us the body," another villager who had his face hidden from the camera by the hood of his jacket told Hong Kong's Cable TV.

"If there really isn't any injury on the body, then why would you not return the body to us?" Continue reading.

AFP - Getty Images

Residents of Wukan take part in a rally on Dec. 15, 2011.

Read more in a Behind the Wall blog post by Ed Flanagan of NBC News: Rebellious Chinese village under siege by police