NPR: Louisa Lim

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.

Based in Beijing, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim finds China a hugely diverse, vibrant, fascinating place. "Everywhere you look and everyone you talk to has a fascinating story," she notes, adding that she's "spoiled with choices" of stories to cover. In her reports, Lim takes "NPR listeners to places they never knew existed. I want to give them an idea of how China is changing and what that might mean for them."

Lim opened NPR's Shanghai bureau in February 2006, but she's reported for NPR from up Tibetan glaciers and down the shaft of a Shaanxi coalmine. She made a very rare reporting trip to North Korea, covered illegal abortions in Guangxi province, and worked on the major multimedia series on religion in China "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China." Lim has been part of NPR teams who multiple awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Peabody and two Edward R. Murrow awards, for their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. She's been honored in the Human Rights Press Awards, as well as winning prizes for her multimedia work.

In 1995, Lim moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express newspaper until its demise six months later and then for TVB Pearl, the local television station. Eventually Lim joined the BBC, working first for five years at the World Service in London, and then as a correspondent at the BBC in Beijing for almost three years.

Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

NPR London correspondent Rob Gifford, who previously spent six years reporting from China for NPR, thinks that Lim is uniquely suited for his former post. "Not only does Louisa have a sharp journalistic brain," Gifford says, "but she sees stories from more than one angle, and can often open up a whole new understanding of an issue through her reporting. By listening to Louisa's reports, NPR listeners will certainly get a feel for what 21st century China is like. It is no longer a country of black and white, and the complexity is important, a complexity that you always feel in Louisa's intelligent, nuanced reporting."

Out of all of her reporting, Lim says she most enjoys covering stories that are quirky or slightly offbeat. However, she gravitates towards reporting on arts stories with a deeper significance. For example, early in her tenure at NPR, Lim highlighted a musical on stage in Seoul, South Korea, based on a North Korean prison camp. The play, and Lim's piece, highlighted the ignorance of many South Koreans of the suffering of their northern neighbors.

Married with a son and a daughter, Lim recommends any NPR listeners travelling to Shanghai stop by a branch of her husband's Yunnan restaurant, Southern Barbarian, where they can snack on deep fried bumblebees, a specialty from that part of southwest China. In Beijing, her husband owns and runs what she calls "the first and best fish and chip shop in China", Fish Nation.

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2:57am

Tue June 5, 2012
Asia

What China's Thinkers Need Most Is Also Most Elusive

Originally published on Wed June 6, 2012 10:35 am

Yang Weidong interviews a subject for his documentary project "Signal," which finds that the vast majority of China's intellectuals yearn most for freedom. He plans to interview 500 of China's top thinkers for the project.
Courtesy Yang Weidong

A deceptively simple question has become an obsession for Chinese artist Yang Weidong: "What do you need?"

For the past four years, Yang has posed the question to more than 300 Chinese intellectuals, and the results illustrate a startling level of discontent among China's thinkers.

As for the answer, one word pops up time and time again.

"I need freedom," says writer Chang Ping.

"I need freedom of speech," says economist Mao Yushi.

"I need freedom of expression," says poet Ye Kuangzheng.

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4:24pm

Fri May 25, 2012
Asia

A Tweet, A Year In A Labor Camp, And Now An Appeal

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 5:24 pm

Fang Hong is seeking compensation for the year he spent in a Chinese labor camp — his sentence for a scatological tweet that mocked politician Bo Xilai and Police Chief Wang Lijun.
Louisa Lim NPR

This is the tale of a single tweet and its far-reaching consequences in China.

In April 2011, retired forestry official Fang Hong posted a scatological tweet, mocking a powerful Chinese politician, Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party secretary.

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12:53pm

Tue May 15, 2012
Asia

The Price Of A Swift Pigeon: Try $328,000

Originally published on Tue May 15, 2012 5:46 pm

Xing Wei, who raises pigeons for lucrative races in China, is shown in Beijing with his favorite bird, Ike. He sells Ike's offspring to wealthy buyers for $15,000.
Louisa Lim NPR

To the average observer, they look like ordinary pigeons, caged into a balcony in a high-rise Beijing apartment. But make no mistake. These cooing birds, according to breeder Yang Shibo, are like top-of-the-line sports cars.

"These are the Ferraris of the bird world," he says. "They're the most expensive, and the fastest."

The price of racing pigeons is soaring sky-high, pushed up by wealthy Chinese buyers.

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11:37am

Wed May 9, 2012
The Two-Way

Why Chen's Blindness Is 'The Central Fact' Of The Chinese Activist's Life

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 11:38 am

Chen Guangcheng, in an undated photo.
AFP/Getty Images

For two weeks now, the world has been following the story of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. And in nearly all reports, the phrase "blind activist" is used at least once.

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6:48am

Tue May 8, 2012
Asia

Chen Fears Supporters Will Pay For His Escape

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 7:41 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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6:55am

Thu May 3, 2012
Asia

Activist Changes His Mind About Staying In China

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 11:26 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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5:23am

Mon April 30, 2012
Asia

Two Crises Highlight China's Social Media Struggles

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 9:13 am

Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, seen in this image from a YouTube video, escaped last week after 19 months under house arrest. Searches for his name are banned on China's Twitter-like services.
AP

China is clamping down on social media as it grapples with a crisis over the escape of a high-profile dissident, apparently to U.S. protection. The case presents new difficulties for a Chinese leadership already struggling to deal with the scandalous downfall of a powerful politician, and it complicates U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Beijing this week.

Yet China's use of social media in dealing with these two recent crises has been a study in contrasts.

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9:46am

Sun April 29, 2012
Asia

Chinese Activist's Escape Quickens A Quiet Diplomacy

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 12:31 pm

Chinese activist Chen Guangchen is believed to be under U.S. protection, possibly at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

A senior U.S. official, Kurt Campbell, has arrived on an unscheduled trip to Beijing, apparently to negotiate over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, believed to be under U.S. protection. The fate of the activist puts both China and the U.S. in a tricky diplomatic bind, with no easy answers.

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4:42am

Wed April 18, 2012
Asia

Chinese Journalist: Bo Xilai Had History Of Bribes

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 2:10 pm

Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai attended a plenary session of the National People's Congress last month in Beijing, shortly before he was stripped of all his Politburo positions.
Ng Han Guan AP

China is gripped by a tale of murder, betrayal, flight and intrigue that threatens the stability of the entire nation. At its heart is the death of a 41-year-old British businessman in a hotel room in the city of Chongqing last fall. The scandal has brought down a high-flying Chinese politician, Chongqing's party secretary Bo Xilai, and his wife, with China's state-run media hinting at their corruption and abuse of power.

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8:00am

Sun April 15, 2012
Asia

Failed Rocket Looms Over N. Korean Anniversary

Originally published on Sun April 15, 2012 1:43 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un, stood before cheering troops and citizens today to make his first public speech. The address rounded off two weeks of celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of the nation's late founder and comes in the wake of Friday's failed missile launch. NPR's Louisa Lim reports on a new approach to leadership in the world's most isolated nation.

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1:56pm

Wed April 11, 2012
Asia

North Korea To Launch Rocket, And A New Power Play

Originally published on Wed April 11, 2012 8:51 pm

A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launchpad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities northwest of Pyongyang on April 8.
Bobby Yip Reuters/Landov

As North Korea gears up to launch a long-range rocket, political changes are afoot, too: Pyongyang has consolidated its succession process, giving a new title to its new leader, Kim Jong Un, who came to power in December after his father's death.

The rocket launch, which could come as early as Thursday in North Korea, has been condemned by the international community as being in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So why now?

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3:36pm

Tue March 27, 2012
Asia

Abuse Claims Follow Mafia Crackdown In Chinese City

Originally published on Tue March 27, 2012 8:23 pm

Lawyer Li Zhuang spent more than a year in prison on charges of fabricating evidence and inciting witnesses, after trying to defend an alleged gangster. Li's case became a national cause celebre.
Louisa Lim NPR

The swift downfall of ambitious Chinese politician Bo Xilai exposed a bitter power struggle in the highest echelons of government. Now his victims are telling their stories, exposing a darker side to Bo's signature clampdown on organized crime.

Charismatic and outspoken, Bo seemed headed for the country's top leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, before he was removed abruptly from his post — as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing — earlier this month.

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4:00am

Mon March 26, 2012
NPR Story

Businessman Chosen As Hong Kong's Next Leader

A selection committee in Hong Kong has chosen a former Cabinet chief as the southern Chinese financial hubs next leader. The voters were handpicked by Beijing. Leung Chun-ying's term will start in July.

3:43pm

Fri March 23, 2012
Asia

For Hong Kong And Mainland, Distrust Only Grows

Originally published on Sun March 25, 2012 2:32 am

Joyce Wong, a pregnant 30-year-old, takes part in a January 15 protest against immigration laws that allow babies born in Hong Kong to mainland Chinese mothers to be eligible for residency, education and medical care in the territory. Hong Kong residents fear the influx of mainlanders will further burden overtaxed resources.
Joyce Woo AFP/Getty Images

A committee of Hong Kong's handpicked elite will select the territory's new leader this weekend after a hotly contested fight, which has left both the main front-runners tainted by scandal.

It's been 15 years since Hong Kong, a former British colony, reverted to Chinese sovereignty, yet tensions between local people and those from the mainland run deeper than ever.

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4:00am

Thu March 15, 2012
Asia

China Removes Flamboyant Politician From Post

Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai leaves after the third plenary meeting of the National People's Congress at The Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 9. Bo had been seen as a leading contender to access the top rungs of power in China, but in a dramatic reversal of fortune, he was sacked Thursday amid a rare public scandal.
Feng Li Getty Images

In a moment of high political drama, China has removed flamboyant politician Bo Xilai from his post as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing. The sacking comes as Beijing approaches a once-in-a-decade power transition this fall, offering a glimpse of the Machiavellian political struggle behind the scenes.

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4:00am

Tue March 13, 2012
Asia

Beijing Bling: Wealth On Display In China's Congress

Originally published on Tue March 13, 2012 3:14 pm

Yang Lan, TV host and delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, carries a Marc Jacobs handbag outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3. Nicknamed "the Oprah Winfrey of China," Yang has also been seen wearing a Giorgio Armani jacket during the legislative session.
Wang Zhou/Imaginechina AP

A leather belt from Hermes priced at almost $1,000 — nearly a year's salary for the average Chinese farmer. A bright pink, $2,000 trouser suit from Emilio Pucci. A red snakeskin Celine handbag that costs $4,500.

These weren't items at a fashion show, but luxury goods spotted on delegates hurrying to China's annual legislative assembly sessions.

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4:00am

Mon March 5, 2012
Asia

China's National People's Opens Annual Session

Originally published on Fri March 9, 2012 10:51 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now just as the U.S. economy seems to be picking up, China's is not. The Chinese government has downgraded its economic growth target to the slowest rate in eight years. China's premier says the country needs to boost consumer demand, and address what he calls unsustainable development.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

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7:58pm

Sat March 3, 2012
Asia

Vote In Small Chinese Village Holds Big Meaning

Residents of Wukan in China's southern Guangdong province fill in forms before voting in village elections on Saturday.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

In southern China, a village that rebelled against corrupt Communist officials has elected the main protest leaders as its new village committee leaders. Reformers are hoping this could be a template for defusing unrest through grassroots democracy, but others say the experience of the rebellious village is unique.

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3:28pm

Wed February 22, 2012
Asia

On Tibetan Plateau, A Sense Of Constant Surveillance

Ethnic Tibetan pilgrims walk on a road during Tibetan New Year in Langmusixiang, Sichuan province, in western China, Feb. 22. Celebrations are subdued in the Tibetan areas of China this year, after a string of self-immolations and protest against Chinese control.
Carlos Barria Reuters /Landov

Wednesday marks the traditional Tibetan New Year, but many Tibetans won't be celebrating. They'll be mourning the almost two-dozen people who set themselves on fire in the past year as a protest against Chinese rule. Eyewitnesses say the town of Aba, site of many of the self-immolations, resembles a Chinese military camp, with soldiers and riot police every few feet. NPR's Louisa Lim traveled elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau to cover the story and sent this dispatch.

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12:01am

Tue February 21, 2012
Asia

Protests, Self-Immolation Signs Of A Desperate Tibet

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 8:44 pm

This photo, provided to freetibet.org, shows a man being forcibly detained by security forces in the town of Serther in Tibet following a clash with protesters and police.
freetibet.org

In a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings, in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — seen by China as a splittist — are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But Chinese security forces have tightened their grasp on this region, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.

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12:01am

Wed February 15, 2012
Asia

For China's Likely Premier, A Western Influence

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 1:31 pm

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, shown here delivering a speech at a Canada-China business forum in Beijing, on Feb. 9, 2012, is expected to become the country's next premier. In contrast to most other Chinese leaders, Li speaks English and has had considerable exposure to Western ideas.
Diego Azubel AP

Third of three parts

The man who's expected to become China's president next year, Xi Jinping, is considered a princeling, the son of a prominent Chinese political figure. But the man who's likely to become premier, Li Keqiang, comes from very different stock.

The son of a minor party official, Li worked as a farmer for four years, before studying law at university.

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12:01am

Tue February 14, 2012
Asia

A Pragmatic Princeling Next In Line To Lead China

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, shown here in December 2011 waving to students during a visit to Bangkok, Thailand, is in line to become China's leader next year.
Pairoj AFP/Getty Images

Second of three parts

In northwestern China's Shaanxi province, a neatly manicured and landscaped memorial park the size of six soccer fields is one sign of the revolutionary lineage of Xi Jinping, the man set to become China's next leader.

Known as a Communist Party princeling, Xi is the 58-year-old son of Xi Zhongxun, a deputy prime minister and revolutionary hero who died in 2002.

The elder Xi was born in Fuping county in Shaanxi, more than 600 miles southwest of Beijing, and is considered a hometown hero.

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12:01am

Mon February 13, 2012
Asia

Hopes, Fears Surround China's Transition Of Power

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 7:27 pm

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (right) and Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (center) chat with Li Changchun of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee after the party's 90th anniversary celebration in Beijing in July. Xi and Li Keqiang, members of a new generation of Chinese leaders, are expected to nab the top spots in an upcoming transition of power.
Feng Li Getty Images

First of three parts

China's leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, is due to arrive in the U.S. shortly, providing the first glimpse of the next generation to lead the world's second-largest economy. This once-in-a-decade transition of power, which begins this fall, is rife with unpredictability, particularly as an unfolding political scandal grips China.

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5:05pm

Wed February 8, 2012
Asia

Home Of Noted Beijing Architect Reduced To Rubble

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 7:09 pm

Liang Sicheng, known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, lobbied Mao Zedong to preserve ancient buildings in Beijing. Despite efforts to have his former courtyard home in Beijing preserved as a cultural relic, it was recently demolished.
Louisa Lim NPR

Down a quiet Beijing alleyway on a recent day, as the winter wind whistles, two men stand guard over a pile of bricks hidden behind a corrugated iron fence.

The pile of rubble was once the home of the man known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, Liang Sicheng. The Orwellian reason for its demolition? "For maintenance," according to a Xinhua news agency report, citing the developer, Fuheng Real Estate company.

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2:43pm

Tue January 24, 2012
Asia

For China's 'Left-Behind Kids,' A Free Lunch

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:06 am

Students enjoy free meals on the inaugural day of the Free Lunch for Children program at Hujiaying primary school in Shaanxi province's Nanzheng county.
Louisa Lim NPR

For 10-year-old student Xie Xiaoyuan, just getting to school is an ordeal. On a recent day, her frostbitten ears are testament to just how difficult the trip is.

"I get up at five o'clock," she says, "then I comb my hair and start walking."

Xie navigates a mountain path in China's remote Shaanxi province in the dark, trudging through snowstorms and mudslides. Then she has to get a bus for about 10 miles. She hasn't time to eat breakfast.

"For lunch, I spend 15 cents on two pieces of bread and a drink," she says.

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12:01am

Wed January 11, 2012
Asia

China Targets Entertainment TV In Cultural Purge

TV show Super Girl Voice, a singing contest show, is recorded at Hunan Satellite TV station in 2006 in Changsha city, Hunan province of China. The show was recently banned as part of a recent entertainment industry crackdown.
Guang Niu Getty Images

Tens of millions of people tune in every week to the Chinese dating show Take Me Out. It's pure entertainment: girls in skimpy dresses hoping for a date; sweaty, geeky guys stammering questions; and two effete hosts sporting matching bouffant hairstyles.

But as of last week, the show was bumped from prime time — part of China's latest clampdown against "excessive entertainment," which is itself a manifestation of a larger ideological campaign.

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4:29am

Fri December 23, 2011
Asia

With N. Korea In Flux, Neighbors Reassess Policies

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:23 am

South Korean soldiers face a North Korean soldier standing at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Thursday. North Korea's neighbors are reassessing their policies following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Wally Santana AP

The boundary between North Korea and South Korea has been called the world's most dangerous border. But on Thursday, the most dangerous thing about it appeared to be the biting cold and bone-chilling wind, with one Korean soldier jokingly describing the temperature as "hell."

At the Joint Security Area where the actual demarcation line is, half a dozen South Korean soldiers stood at the alert, facing off against one solitary North Korean soldier in khaki. The only unusual sign was the North Korean flag flying at half-staff.

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1:27pm

Wed December 21, 2011
North Korea In Transition

With Kim's Death, Defectors See Chance For Change

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 9:09 pm

Park Sang-nak, a North Korean defector, displays anti-North Korea leaflets before sending them by balloon into North Korea, at Imjinggak peace park in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Wednesday. Defectors from the North are hoping the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may provide an opportunity for political change.
Yang Hoi-Sung AFP/Getty Images

While North Korean mourners trudged through snow in Pyongyang to pay last respects to their "Dear Leader," defectors from the North now in South Korea are celebrating the sudden death of Kim Jong Il, who died from a heart attack this past weekend.

And as the outside world tries to figure out how much control his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, has over the nuclear-armed state, the defectors are focusing on trying to kickstart a revolution in North Korea.

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5:05pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Asia

After Kim's Death, No Signs Of Power Struggles

The body of Kim Jong Il, the deceased leader of North Korea, now lies in state in the capital, Pyongyang. His sudden death has raised concerns about possible power struggles. But so far, all outward signs suggest that the North Korean leadership is lining up behind his son, Kim Jong Un.

3:39pm

Fri December 16, 2011
Asia

Chinese Property Dispute Becomes A Bitter Showdown

Originally published on Sat December 17, 2011 12:10 am

Family members burn funeral offerings for Xue Jinbo on Friday. Xue, 42, was involved in a property dispute that turned into a major confrontation with authorities in the southern Chinese village of Wukan. He died in police custody.
Louisa Lim NPR

What began as a property dispute in the southern Chinese village of Wukan has escalated into an open revolt for the past six days. It's one of the most serious episodes of unrest that the Chinese Communist Party has faced in recent years. The protests were suspended for a while Friday so villagers could mourn the man whose death led villagers to chase police and government officials out of town. The police have sealed off the area, but NPR's Louisa Lim managed to get into Wukan.

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