Activists set precedents resisting land grabs in Wukan, China
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
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,
"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
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,"
"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,"
"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."
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"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.
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