Citizens in Wukan protest what they said were illegal land seizures by the Chinese Communist Party plus the illegal arrest and suspected torture of the democratically elected mayor. Photo from June 20, 2016. Credit Xinhua
WUKAN, CHINA (Reuters) – This month’s crackdown on protests in China’s Wukan village was ordered by the provincial leader under pressure to prove his mettle ahead of a pivotal Communist Party congress next year where he could reach the top table of power in China, sources close to the leadership say.
Guangdong party boss Hu Chunhua, at 53 one of the two youngest members of the party’s 25-member Politburo, is a candidate for the seven-person Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power, according to analysts and several sources with ties to the central leadership.
The pacification of Wukan, where villagers had marched for over 80 days since mid-June in protest at the jailing of democratically elected village chief Lin Zuluan, was crucial to Hu’s chances, the sources said.
“It’s a test of Hu Chunhua’s ability,” one of the sources with central leadership ties told Reuters.
The source added that the leadership’s view of Hu’s handling of the Wukan situation would be an important factor in determining whether he makes it onto the Standing Committee.
Hu couldn’t be reached for comment, and there was no reply to requests for comment from China’s State Council, or Cabinet, nor from Guangdong’s Public Security Bureau and the Lufeng government, which has direct jurisdiction over Wukan.
The fishing village came to prominence in 2011, when it rose up against land grabs by local officials and wrested concessions including a free vote to elect Lin and other village leaders from Hu’s predecessor as Guangdong boss, Wang Yang, now a vice premier in Beijing.
The protestors this time were beaten back by rubber bullets and tear gas, and by hundreds of police in riot gear, who made scores of arrests and barred Hong Kong and foreign journalists from the area.
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