Villagers Slam Wukan Poll Plan

New concerns arise in a Chinese rebellious village after violent protests last month led to unusual government concessions.

Residents of Wukan village attend a meeting amid angry protests, Dec. 19, 2011.
Eyepress News

Residents of China's rebel Guangdong village of Wukan have hit out at planned local re-elections amid concerns that non-government candidates have been excluded from the polls' nomination process.

The new concerns arose after violent protests by the Wukan villagers against unscrupulous land grabs and rigged elections last month that led to an unusual set of government concessions, including extending recognition to protest leaders.

"The preparatory committee for the re-election is entirely manned by people sent by the government," a Wukan resident surnamed Zhang said in a recent interview.

"They say that they will conduct the elections according to law, but all the same village officials are there on the list of candidates sent down by the provincial government," he said.

The failure to include Wukan villagers' rebel village committee on the 100-strong list of candidates came as news spread through the village of the suicide of a local 60-year-old man, who died after drinking pesticides last Thursday.

"I asked his brother and they said there was no way to be sure of the reason for his death," said Zhang. "But they said that before he died he told family members he was very scared after receiving threatening phone calls."

Zhang added that villagers were still waiting for police to return the body of Xue Jinbo, a protester in his forties who died in police custody at the height of a standoff at the barricades between local people and thousands of armed police in Wukan in December.

An official autopsy said Xue had died of a heart attack, but relatives who identified his body said it was covered in bruises from head to foot.

Xue's death in police custody and the anger over the refusal to return his body threatened to escalate the already tense situation, until provincial officials intervened, promising a re-election of the village committee and the return of Xue's body.

Tea sessions

Many activists and ordinary netizens who were openly supportive of the Wukan rebellion said they have been targeted by police in recent days, with some being called in "to drink tea" with state security police.

Guangzhou resident Guo Chunping said he had been called in for questioning by state security police after he wrote a couple of microblog posts containing links to articles supportive of the Wukan rebellion, and of blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng, who is being held under house arrest with his entire family.

"I have been to drink tea with them before," Guo said. "However, a lot of people in mainland China are being called in now."

"It has almost become a commonplace."

A Guangzhou-based netizen who goes by the nickname Jiangshan Yongzhe said Guangzhou police had been keeping an eye on a number of political activists in the city.

He said he had been detained by police after he tried to visit the Guangdong town of Haimen, where protesters were demonstrating against pollution they said was linked to a coal-fired power plant there.

"I don't even know how they knew who I was," Jiang said. "They told me I had been publishing incorrect news, and that they had got some heat for it."

"I told them that everything I had published was true, things that really happen...and that I was doing this for them as well, and their children and grandchildren."


Provincial officials said on Friday that the Wukan villagers' complaints about their local officials were "legitimate," official media reported.

Investigators from the Guangdong provincial government found that Lufeng Fengtian livestock company used more land than was officially approved, while Yidazhou Group was in arrears with its land compensation to village residents.

The probe also found that former village Party secretary Xue Chang embezzled money to buy a vehicle for personal use. The elections which returned Xue and his associates to office in the village Party committee were annulled last week.

Wukan protesters had called off a planned protest march afte concessions from the government, with official promises of a graft probe, the return of Xue's body and fresh elections.

Thousands of people had rallied in the besieged village, which lies between the cities of Lufeng and Shanwei in the eastern part of Guangdong, to mourn protester Xue's death  and to call for a probe into graft.

The village was besieged by security forces for more than a week after residents fought off thousands of riot police using barricades and home-made weapons, with similar protests erupting in nearby villages around the same time.

The standoff in Wukan prompted widespread support from netizens, before the village and associated keywords were listed as "sensitive" and stopped showing up in search results.

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Gao Shan for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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