The situation: a bunch of people are angry that government officials or cadres, in cahoots with developers, are evicting them to build luxury housing that they won't be able to afford. Of course they haven't been properly compensated -- oh, and a village representative was killed while in custody. This is a huge deal. Because while chai-qian (demolish-relocate) is common -- the biggest surprise is these large-scale protests don't happen more often -- a death of a well-respected villager is the type of cataclysmic event that can galvanize and embolden the masses, and suddenly a dispute has become a months-long protest.
We should probably be clear about what the villagers are fighting for, though. It's not, as Hong Kong's Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China chairman Lee Cheuk-yan rather selfishly put it, "democracy in China" (quote: "We are very much encouraged by their struggle and we believe this is the hope for democracy in China.") For fuck's sake, their land is being pillaged; I think "democracy" and all its nebulous meanings is the last thing on their minds. We can help the movement or we can hurt it, and wielding words like "democracy" and, really, "rebellion" (implying overthrow of the government) probably aren't the best. In this sense, this is nothing like Occupy, and not really at all like Arab Spring: these villagers have a specific reason for protesting, and it's a pretty narrow, selfish reason, however justified they are.
Still: we should pay attention. You never know where the threshold is for critical mass, and once that's reached, things will never be the same.
POSTSCRIPT: Somehow related: Christian Bale stopped from visiting Chen Guangcheng. Some days, I tell ya... fuck this government.