Bloomberg News

China’s Wukan Village Elects New Leader After Land Protests

March 03, 2012

The southern Chinese village of Wukan elected a new leader after officials were ousted last year during a standoff that drew attention to growing social unrest, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The new village head was chosen late yesterday, the state- run news agency reported without identifying the official. Thousands of people voted in the election after 22 candidates gave speeches on Feb. 29, Xinhua reported earlier. Two deputy chiefs and four members of a village committee were also being chosen, it said yesterday.

The elections were the third and final round of voting agreed to under a deal with Guangdong province Communist Party leaders to end the December standoff. The decision to negotiate rather than quash the protest underscored the party’s priority of trying to ease social unrest as it heads into a leadership transition later this year.

“The government has surely taken a conciliatory approach because using force will not pacify social unrest,” Xiong Wei, founder of the Beijing New Enlightenment Research Center, a nongovernmental organization that advises villages on local elections, said by phone from Wukan on March 2. “The cost will be too huge; it will trigger too much public anger.”

The number of protests in China including strikes and demonstrations rose to at least 180,000 in 2010, double the number four years earlier, according to Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and other party leaders have said repeatedly the government must address social unrest.

Model for Disputes

The party’s concessions over Wukan, worked out with the approval of Guangdong Communist Party Secretary Wang Yang, led to speculation that it would serve as a model to end similar disputes that periodically break out across China. Regional leaders said the residents’ demands were “reasonable” and local party leaders abused power when they seized land.

The Communist Party will tighten oversight of village officials and impose harsher punishments on those who violate the rules, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Feb. 28, according to Xinhua.

The commission said the party will investigate officials who violate laws on land usage, committee elections and public- property management, according to Xinhua.

Almost 36,000 government officials were punished in 2011 for legal violations, the Ministry of Supervision said the same day, according to a separate Xinhua report. In a statement, the ministry cited an official it didn’t identify as saying that corruption should be addressed “without mercy.”

While the Communist Party decided not to crack down on Wukan, it has done so in other places. The state-run Global Times reported Feb. 17 that unrest in Panhe was quelled after several protesters were arrested. A Dutch freelance journalist, Remko Tanis, who went to report on the incident, told the Global Times he was beaten and ordered to leave.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nicholas Wadhams in Beijing at nwadhams@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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