The southern Chinese village of Wukan, which was the site of an international spectacle last year after villagers kicked out Communist Party officials and began running affairs for themselves, may soon see more protests. Communist authorities have again angered residents, after overriding the power of the democratically-elected village committee and breaking their promise to return land to dispossessed farmers.
It has been nearly a year since the villagers in Guangdong Province elected their own village committee to preside over public affairs in March 2012. Out of the 1,977 acres of land illegally sold to developers by the previous ousted committee, about 1,153 acres have already been certified as state-owned land and cannot be retrieved. Authorities in Shanwei, which has jurisdiction over Wukan, claim that the remaining 824 acres have been handed over to the village committee, according to a report by Shanghai-based Dragon TV.
However, the villagers do not know whether the allegedly returned properties have been leased or sold, nor have they received any compensation, the report said.
A villager told Dragon TV that locals are angry to have received nothing for their land, not even an explanation from the village committee.
Villagers are planning another mass protest after the Chinese New Year holiday, a resident called Mr. Cai told the Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio Network on Feb. 15.
Over the past year, the new village committee members have lost their passion and feel powerless to fight the corruption.
Committee head Lin Zulian, who played a key role in the original Wukan protest, used to deliver passionate speeches before the new committee formed, saying the villagers would persevere against corruption, no matter how powerful the perpetrators’ connections are. But now, he is afraid of seeing the villagers or taking their phone calls. “The inside story is complicated. I have to be careful with everything,” he told Dragon TV.
Lin said he regretted his involvement in the previous protests. “Why did I bother? Why did I bring this trouble upon myself?” However, he is hoping that young people can take over his work, and continue to fight for the villagers.
A Guangdong provincial official told Dragon TV that although the newly elected village committee is in charge of Wukan, the authorities cannot just let it be. “The relevant Party departments still need to give it proper direction.”
A villager called Mr. Wu told The Epoch Times that there is still no democracy in Wukan. “Everything has to be approved by the Party, which claims to support the new village committee. The Party is still calling the shots,” Wu said, “The village committee members either go along with the Party, or voluntarily resign.”
Reporter Liu Yiming of China Magazine told SOH that higher level officials have removed the village committee’s power since its democratic election, preventing its members from carrying out their normal work.
“Grassroots-level democracy will not work in China, because the Chinese Communist Party never wanted to actually practice democracy, let alone allow Western-style elections. This is determined by the entire political system,” Liu added.
Zhuang Liehong, one of the committee members, declared his resignation last October, saying he could not carry out his responsibilities due to the restraints of the system, Radio France Internationale reported.
Zhang Jiancheng, another committee member, was forced to resign on Jan. 29.
Translation by John Yang. Written in English by James Chi.
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