Activists set precedents resisting land grabs in Wukan, China

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Jul 21 22:15:01 BST 2012

Wukan: a beacon for future Chinese democracy?
2 April 2012 Reportage Online
Recent anti-corruption protests and local elections in the southern 
Chinese village of Wukan has reignited discourse about China's 
future. Cate Cadell investigates.
The discussion on Chinese politics has flared up again following the 
riots in the Guandong village of Wukan that led to village elections 
earlier this month. However experts say the political significance of 
the Wukan election has been overplayed by the media.
The village was dubbed a 'beacon of democracy' when a four month 
standoff between citizens and party authorities ended with a 
democratic election of new village representatives.
Though according to Hans Hendrischke, a Professor of Chinese Politics 
at the University of Sydney, there has been a critical 
misunderstanding in the media about how Chinese politics work.
"The village level is in fact not a Government level," said 
Hendrishke. "This was a village election, it was never illegal. You 
could have one every week!"
"It's a case of the press reporting certain elements and not others," he said.
"If the whole level went above the village into township level then 
the whole situation would be different."
The Chinese Government is made up of a hierarchy of officials, each 
set elects the one directly above. The lowest level is the township 
council, and village level elections are below that; meaning they 
have little or no bearing on the system.
"What they have conceded, and what is important in the Chinese 
context, is that they haven't used police force or brutal force to 
clamp down," said Hendrishke
"It's unlikely that this will cause a bottom up democratic process 
though because it was just a village election."
Hendrishke claims that the concessions made by the Party were done in 
"a degree of disregard."
"They [the Chinese Government] are saying 'lets calm this thing down, 
lets show a soft side because it's not going to do us any harm'," he said.

The civilian protests began in September last year and flared into 
riots in December, when a village representative died suspiciously in 
police custody. The townspeople protested what they claim were 
'corrupted' land grabs.
Village authorities were responsible for claiming collective land for 
development purposes, and angry land owners claim they weren't 
compensated. They suspect the authorities pocketed the profits themselves.
Frank Ruanjie, who heads the Australian branch of the Chinese 
Democratic Party, said this is a common occurrence in China.
"It's a big problem; the local officers and people develop the 
farmland without offering compensation," Ruanjie said.
Ruanjie, a pro-democracy survivor of the Tiananmen square massacre 
has since been exiled to Australia, and publishes the Independent 
Chinese newspaper 'Tiananmen Times'.
"I suspect the leadership of the village sold farm land to business 
people and took the money for themselves, they certainly didn't 
consult the village people," he said.
Despite strong suspicion, there has been no concrete evidence that 
corruption occurred during the land sales. However it is known that 
thousands of land grab protests have happened in the past decade, 
largely unreported.
"The way local industrialisation happens in China is in land sales, 
that is how Chinese enterprises are funded," said Hendrishke. "The 
central government is not able to control land claims. Local 
governments have to find 60 percent of their budget, one of the few 
ways to do this comes out of land sales and leasing."
"You could have corruption in the authorities taking the money 
themselves but there is no proof in the article which is quite 
interesting," said Hendrishke.
Ruanjie argues that unmonitored local land grabs have potential to 
impinge on the human rights of Chinese villagers throughout the country.
"In some villages, there's proof local authorities develop viruses 
and use them on the people. They hire members from the black society, 
underground people, to take care of the villagers who are on the 
developer's land."

Media blackout
Wukan has been set apart from other similar incidents by 
comprehensive international coverage. However it's brought attention 
to the limited media coverage within China.
"The Chinese people know very little about what happened in Wukan," 
said Ruanjie.
"The central government blocked the news from the country. They 
[Party authorities] would want to keep the election secret, they 
don't want other villages to look to Wukan."
Search terms on China's popular social media site, Sina Weibo, were 
blocked shortly after the riots escalated, with phrases such as 
'Wukan' and 'WK' returning no results until they were unblocked on 
December 21, days after the protests ceased.
According to Ruanjie, the blackout "is a very serious situation."
"If you want to comment on Wukan, you can't be in the country. If you 
are in China you don't know China."

The future of Chinese democracy
While dialogue is still playing out, there is still doubt as to 
whether the uprising will have any lasting political effect.
"The government gave into the villagers to a very limited degree," 
said Hendrishke.
"It's quite likely they can't be bothered to look into village 
finances because it's got much larger fish to fry; there's a degree 
of disregard. If there is a ripple effect in the villages that is not 
something that's all too new, but it may have a ripple effect in 
terms of the policy the government took."
As the elections wrap up, the potential for political follow up 
movements appears slim, and some argue that the win was not 
democratic in nature but economic.
"The trouble is the demands of the Chinese people are economic. 
Economic demands are easy to satisfy, political demands require 
change," said Ruanjie.
"In terms of democracy, if you think it's long, it's long away. If 
you think it is near, it's very near."
+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which 
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be 
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell 
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the 
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.  
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list