Wukan: What a police crackdown in the so-called ‘democracy village’ says about Xi Jinping’s China

By China correspondent Bill Birtles

ABC News (Australia)

A small fishing village far from China’s capital may seem like an unlikely place for bold political experiment.

But the 13,000 residents of Wukan in southern Guangdong province have, for the past five years, been trailblazers for grassroots democracy in China.

Now, with 2,000 police swarming the village and putting it under lockdown, that political experiment appears to be finished.

One local who gave his surname Zeng told the ABC that police had broken into the family home and arrested his mother.

“Many people in the village were hit by rubber bullets,” he said.

“My sister was hit in the foot and the head.”

Extraordinary smartphone footage showed hundreds of protestors using rocks to drive back riot police.

But locals have also posted dozens of pictures of bruised and bloodied residents, and police said 70 people had been taken into custody to stem the unrest.

Wukan has history of activism, grassroots democracy

The people of Wukan are no strangers to clashes with authorities.

The town shot to prominence in 2011 when villages forced a major standoff with police.

They were furious about illegal land grabs, and to defuse tension, the provincial government granted them a rare opportunity in authoritarian China — to elect their local leader in an open, transparent poll.

They voted in one of the protest leaders, Lin Zuluan.

Five years on, Mr Lin has been jailed for corruption, and the town has once again become a hotbed of anger.

“These human rights violations reflect the failure to implement a real democratic process,” Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International, Patrick Poon, said.

Other observers see Wukan as an example of a broader trend in China.

“Economic growth in China is slowing down, and the Xi Jinping leadership in Beijing realises there will be more protests by disaffected villages and workers,” Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said.

“So setting an example of resolute action against disobedient villagers in Wukan is a way of telling the rest of the country that Beijing won’t hesitate to use draconian means to restore order.”

A protestor against the jailing of former Wukan village head Lin Zuluan holds a sign.

But the lockdown in Wukan is also symbolic.

While village-level elections were introduced in 1979, they have failed to push forwards grassroots democracy in China, with corruption and Party interference a problem.

Wukan’s poll looked to be a turning point.

But with the town now under lockdown and the democratically-elected leader jailed, any hope that the Wukan model could be applied to other parts of China appear dashed.

“What’s happened is very disappointing, regarding the overall progression of political reform, because no advancement has been made since 1979,” Mr Lam said.

Topics: community-and-society, government-and-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, china

Includes video:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-15/wukan-what-a-police-crackdown-says-about-xi-jinping’s-china/7845752

Related:

  (The BBC Presenter clearly took the side of the Chinese government)

HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh pose for an official photograph with the President of The People’s Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping, accompanied by Madame Peng Liyuan Photo: Arthur Edwards

Lin Zuluan, chief in Wukan village, is shown in 2014.

Lin Zuluan, chief in Wukan village, is shown in 2014.

China is notorious for its forced confessions and state controlled media…

 (Contains links to many previous articles on the Philippines and the South China Sea)

   (From July 12, 2016)

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