Wukan elects its new committee

Updated: 2012-03-04 08:43

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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GUANGzhou / BEIJING - Thousands of people in a village in South China's Guangdong province went to polls on Saturday to elect a new village committee, several months after staging massive protests over illegal land sales and other issues.

Wukan elects its new committee
Twenty-two candidates in Wukan, a fishing village in eastern Guangdong, delivered public speeches to gain support from some 8,300 registered voters out of a population of about 12,000.

The voting was the last of a three-phase election that selected an 11-member election committee and 109 village representatives in February.

The village committee included a chief, two deputy chiefs and four committee members, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Based on the election results, Lin Zulian, who has a high profile for his lead role in raising the village's issues and handling its affairs, was elected the village chief, the election committee announced.

A 50-percent turnout is required to validate the voting, and winning candidates must have at least half the votes.

"The voting is an open and fair procedure. We do hope the winners will lead us to a bright future," Yang Jinlu, a local villager, was quoted as saying by the Nanfang Daily.

Villagers' complaints about land use, finances and the elections of the village leaders in Wukan have escalated since September last year, prompting local residents to hold sometimes violent demonstrations for months.

Li Bingji, a deputy of the National People's Congress, is a native of Wukan. He did not comment on the election on Saturday.

Li is also chairman of Guangdong Richvast Group, which bought some 300,000 square meters of land in the village in the 1990s.

However, initial investigations by the Guangdong authorities in December said the company did not pay adequate compensation to the farmers in the land deals.

"We own the land use certificate after signing the deal with the former village committee. But now, we will return some land that had not been developed to the farmers and pay up the defaulted money," he said.

Du Huizhen, a journalism teacher with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said the election in Wukan village is of great importance to boosting the country's grassroots democracy.

"Villagers have attached great importance to details in the election procedure, which is rarely seen in China's grassroots election," Du told China Daily.

Regarding grassroots democracy, Du said he has high expectations beyond the election in Wukan.

"Farmers are often seen as a vulnerable group in grassroots democracy as they lack higher education background.

Only when such prejudices are eliminated can they really govern their village affairs."

Wang Yang, party chief of Guangdong, has pledged to improve management and organization in villages across the province.

The unrest in Wukan was not eased until December when provincial authorities sent an investigation team into the village and officials held direct talks with villagers, promising a "fair and open" investigation.

"The investigation is not only aimed at diffusing the standoff between villagers and the government, but to provide an example for us in terms of regulating grassroots democracy," Wang said at a Guangdong provincial Party session in February.

The province will work out a designated plan to improve village-level organization and management and better solve key issues related to the villagers' interests this year.

"The plan will be based on analysis of the Wukan case," Wang said.

China Daily