Scandal-dogged Wukan begins election of new leadership

   

Villagers cast votes amid rain during the village committe election of Wukan Village

in Lufeng City, south China’s Guangdong Province, on March 31, 2014. Thousands of

residents of Wukan cast votes to select a seven-member village committee on Monday.  

Photos by Lu Hanxin

 

 

 

 

 

Scandal-dogged Wukan

begins election of new leadership

 

 

By Wang Pan, Zan Yijia, Ma Xiaocheng and Liang Saiyu

 

 

Wukan was thrown under the international spotlight in 2011 when

its residents staged three waves of large-scale rallies in four months

against village officials’ alleged illegal land grabs, corruption and

violations of financing and election rules. A re-election, hailed as a

national tryout of self-governance and a promotion of the spirit of

democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012.

 

 

Thousands of residents in Wukan Village of south China’s Guangdong Province on Monday  of March 31 cast votes for a new leadership, despite torrential rain and a series of recent corruption scandals dogging the local democratic process.

The voting will select a seven-member village committee for the 13,000 residents of Wukan, 9,100 of whom are at or above the age of 18 and are therefore entitled to both vote and hold office.

Monday’s voting venue was set up in a village school with rain-proof sheds set up to protect the iron ballot boxes and dozens of wooden ballot booths.

Voting was scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by an open count of the vote and then an announcement of the election results.

Wukan was thrown under the international spotlight in 2011 when its residents staged three waves of large-scale rallies in four months against village officials’ alleged illegal land grabs, corruption and violations of financing and election rules.

A re-election, hailed as a national tryout of self-governance and a promotion of the spirit of democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012, appointing Lin Zulian as the head of a new village committee.

However, that did not put an end to the turbulence in Wukan. In April2012, several former officials from the village were expelled from the Communist Party of China over corruption and election-rigging charges.

March of this year saw another local corruption scandal. Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, who were chosen as deputy chiefs of the village committee in the re-election, were detained by police over allegations that they took bribes concerning public projects in the village.

Over the past two years, more than 5,000 mu (330 hectares) of land determined to have been illegally transferred, allotted, or left idle has been returned to the village. Governments at the provincial and city levels have earmarked tens of millions of yuan for improving villagers’ livelihood.

Monday’s vote found villagers hopeful about democratic prospects. Huang Yongqing, who works in Shenzhen City some 400 km away, said he came all the way back to cast his vote.

“Only through electing an unselfish leadership can the village step on the right track of development,” he said.

Sun Hanliang, supervisor of the election and also a committee member elected in the 2012 re-election, said this round aims at “clearing the old and building the new.”

According to Sun, the first and foremost task of the new leadership is to meet the demand of villagers on retrieving land, and to promote the overall development of the village, while “the unity of the leadership is also of great importance.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working staff carry the ballot box after the village committe election of Wukan

Village in Lufeng City, south China’s Guangdong Province, on March 31, 2014.

Photo by Lu Hanxin

 

Working staff count votes during the village committe election of Wukan Village

in Lufeng City, south China’s Guangdong Province, on March 31, 2014.   Photo by Lu Hanxin

 

 

 

 

Shamed Wukan seeks new leaders

 

 

By Wang Pan, Ma Xiaocheng, Zan Yijia and Liang Saiyu

 

 

Wu Luping, a villager from Wukan, in south China’s Guangdong Province, expects to vote in a “capable village committee” this time.

“We can’t believe that the second committee we elected in 2012 is also corrupt, so I think the next committee should talk less and do more. The corruption must not arise again,” he said.

Residents in Wukan, a village of 13,000, cast votes on Monday for a new leadership, despite teeming rain and a torrent of corruption scandals swamping the local democratic process. The vote will elect a committee of seven: a chief, two deputies and four ordinary members.

The polling station was a village school with temporary sheds protecting the iron ballot boxes and dozens of wooden ballot booths. Voting was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and last until 3:30 p.m. It was claimed 8,160 ballots had been cast, out of an electorate of just over 9,000. The result is expected Monday night.

Wukan was thrown into the international spotlight in 2011 when residents staged three waves of rallies in four months, against what they claimed was illegal land grabs, corruption and violations of financing and election rules by village officials.

The rerun of the election, hailed as a national tryout of self-governance and promotion of the spirit of democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012. But that did not put an end to the turbulence.

In April 2012, several former officials from the village were expelled from the Communist Party of China for corruption and election-rigging.

March of this year saw yet another corruption scandal. Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, both chosen as deputy chiefs in the second ballot, were detained by police over allegations that they took bribes concerning public projects in the village.

Lin Zulian, head of the village committee, said he was extremely distressed by projects lying unfinished due to corruption.

“This village committee was elected by the villagers themselves, but already some of the committee repeated the mistakes of the previous committee, less than a year later. This requires our introspection,” he said.

Over the past two years, more than 5,000 mu (330 hectares) of land illegally transferred, allotted, or left idle has been returned to the village. Governments at the provincial and city levels have earmarked tens of millions of yuan for improving the village.

 

 

LONG ROAD AHEAD

 

The village is faces a rocky road ahead before a good self-governance.

Yang Semao, who was bailed out of jail to help organize the election, confessed that the committee, with little experience or unity, had made mistakes over the past year.

The “deputy’s meeting”, expected to play a decisive role in village affairs, has never worked smoothly. The meeting of 107 representatives is a crucial procedure in democratic self-governance. Representatives have to attend committee meetings, pass on villagers’ suggestions and complaints and keep the villagers informed of decisions made at the meetings.

“But they sometimes got into brawls over the different stands they take, and some even refuse to express their opinions. We need to discuss rather than argue with each other,” deputy Zhang Jianxing said.

Despite all this, Monday’s vote found villagers hopeful about democratic prospects.

“The election is good. The village committee used to be a bureaucracy, but now people can express their opinions freely,” said a villager Zhang Bingquan. “But democracy is not a panacea that will work immediately, more lessons should be drawn from the problems. People’s enthusiasm is much higher than I expected.”

Huang Yongqing, who works in Shenzhen City some 400 km away, said he came all the way back to cast his vote.

“Only through electing an unselfish leadership can the village move in the right direction,” he said.

Sun Hanliang, supervisor of the election and committee member elected in the 2012 rerun, said this latest vote aims to “clear out the old and build anew”.

According to Sun, the first and foremost task of the new leadership is to meet the demands of villagers on retrieving their land, then to promote the overall development of the village, while “the unity of the leadership is also of great importance”.

Zheng Jia, Party secretary of Lufeng city, which administrates the village, said the election will pick a capable leadership to meet mounting challenges.

“Majority of people want development. We should trust the new committee and give them to solve the village’s problems,” Zheng said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Head of Wukan village reelected

 

By Liang Saiyu, Zan Yijia, Wang Pan and Ma Xiaocheng

 

Lin Zulian has been reelected head of a new village committee in Wukan after thousands of residents cast their votes on Monday, despite torrential rains and corruption scandals.

Sun Hanmin, general supervisor of the election announced at 9 p.m. that Lin was elected as the chief of the committee with 5,019 votes.

Another ballot will be held on Tuesday afternoon to elect six other members of the committee, as no candidate had won half of the votes in Monday’s election.

A total of 8,160 ballot papers were claimed at the polling station on Monday, out of an electorates of more than 9,000.

Wukan was thrown into the international spotlight in 2011 when residents protested for months against the village committee’s illegal land grabs, corruption, violations of financing and election rules.

A rerun of the election, a national tryout of self-governance, democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012, and Lin Zulian was elected chief of the committee.

However, March of this year saw more corruption scandals. Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, deputy chiefs of the village committee, were detained by police over allegations that they took bribes for public projects in the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKGROUNDER

 

Timeline of events in scandal-dogged Wukan village 

 

By Liang Saiyu, Zan Yijia and Weng Ye

 

 

 

 

 

Election for a new leadership kicks off on Monday in Wukan Village in south China’s Guangdong Province.

The village grabbed worldwide headlines in 2011, when villagers staged large-scale protests and drove out village heads whom they accused of illegal land grabs.

Here is a timeline of the events in Wukan dating back to September 2011.

 

 

2014

 

  March 31 Election of new village committee kicks off.

•  March 18 Hong Ruichao, deputy chief of Wukan, detained for alleged bribery.

•  March 14 Yang Semao, deputy village chief, bailed to prepare for the upcoming election of the village’s new leadership.

•  March 13 Yang Semao detained for alleged bribery.

 

 

2012

 

• April 23 Two former officials of Wukan deprived of Communist Party of China membership over corruption and election-rigging charges.

•  March 4 Seven members of Wukan’s village committee elected.

•  March 3 Villagers go to polls for a new village committee election, which includes a chief, two deputy chiefs and four members. Lin Zulian elected as chief of the committee with 6,205 votes, and Yang Semao, winning 3,609 votes, elected as deputy chief of the committee.

•  February 11 Villagers vote for deputies in the second round of democratic elections for new leadership. Their voting is expected to result in a team of 107 village representatives and seven village committee members.

•  February 1 Election kicks off for new leadership after former village heads were removed.

•  January 15 Wukan sets up new CPC branch and a work team to prepare for the upcoming election of the village committee.

 

 

2011

 

• December 30 Work team concedes that the major demands of Wukan villagers are reasonable and that local officials did make “some mistakes.”

•  December 28 Wang Yemin, in charge of village committee election with a work team, announces the result was invalid when briefing the investigation over Wukan’s election. He says a new election will be held soon.

•  December 23 Three people from Wukan, who had been detained by police for alleged vandalism in the protests, released on bail pending trial.

• December 22 Zhu Mingguo, deputy secretary of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee, heads a work team to Wukan. He emphasizes fairness and openness in handling of the situation.

•  December 20 Provincial officials promise to restore stability as soon as possible as the village is overwhelmed with demonstrators, and a special government work team is founded to handle the situation.

•  December 13 The technology sector of Guangdong Provincial People’s Procuratorate informs Xue Jinbo’s family of the results of the investigation of his death by a third party, which believes that his death accords with the general pathologic features of a sudden death.

•  December 11 Wukan villagers gather again after Xue, who was suspected of organizing the demonstration in November, dies in police custody.

•  December 9 Xue and two others arrested on suspicion of damaging public property and disrupting public service and put in police custody at the Shanwei Detention Center.

•  November 21 and 22 Large-scale protests in the village.

•  September 21 and 22 Villagers in Wukan, south China’s Guangdong Province, vent their anger against village authorities over issues related to land use, financing and election of local officials. Xue Jinbo and other agitated villagers break into local government offices and police stations and destroy six police cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on April 1, 2014

Wukan continues

leadership elctions

after vote-rigging scandals

 

 

By Liang Saiyu, Zan Yijia, Wang Pan and Ma Xiaocheng

 

Wukan Village of south China’s Guangdong Province continued public votes to elect its new leadership on Tuesday of April 1, with great pains taken to ensure transparency.

With the village subject to a number of vote-rigging and corruption scandals in recent years, a tally of votes cast on Monday has this time been displayed openly on boards around the grounds of the school in which voting is taking place. Further elections for Wukan’s new committee are being held there on Tuesday afternoon.

Incumbent committee head Lin Zulian was reelected with 5,019 votes on Monday of March 31, and six other seats for the seven-strong committee will be filled after Tuesday’s by-election.

Two deputy chiefs will be elected from three candidates including Hong Ruichao, who was detained by police last month on suspicion of bribery. And the four remaining members will be chosen from seven candidates.

Voting began at noon on Tuesday and was scheduled to last till 4 p.m. The results are expected to be announced on Tuesday evening.

They will only be deemed valid if more than half of the village’s registered voters cast ballots and each winning candidate secures no less than one-third of all the votes.

Wukan has 13,000 residents, more than 9,000 of whom are of legal age and are therefore entitled to vote.

Monday’s ballots have been collected and counted openly, while the results have been noted on red papers on seven notice boards. After their posting on the boards, the results were sent to the election committee to be published to the public and media.

A total of 8,160 ballot papers were claimed at the polling station on Monday.

Wukan was thrown into the international spotlight in 2011 when residents protested for months against the village committee’s illegal land grabs, corruption, violations of financing and election rules.

A rerun of the election, deemed a national tryout of self-governance, democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012, and Lin Zulian was elected chief of the committee.

However, that did not put an end to the turbulence in Wukan. In April2012, several former officials from the village were expelled from the Communist Party of China over corruption and election-rigging charges.

March of this year saw more corruption scandals. Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, deputy chiefs of the village committee, were detained by police over allegations that they took bribes for public projects in the village.

Reelected Lin voiced appreciation for villagers’ trust and support, acknowledging their higher expectations of the new committee.

“The expectation from populace shall never be betrayed. We will improve democratic decision-making and management of the village committee and strengthen supervision of its members to avoid corruption or inefficiency,” said Lin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wukan’s winding path to

China’s democratic reform

 

 

By Liang Saiyu, Zhong Qun, Wang Pan, Zhan Yijia and Ma Xiaocheng

 

Lin Zulian, who has led Wukan since his election two years ago, has been reelected head of the village committee, in south China’s Guangdong Province.

Lin, 68, was chosen as chief of the new village committee on Monday with 5,019 votes from more than 8,000 cast. Voters praised his selflessness and compassion during his previous two years of tenure.

Recognizing the trust and support of villagers, Lin described how the village has sought an end to its problems through negotiation and concession.

“We have learnt from the past two years that democracy only works out when it is stipulated by law. The new committee will be faithful to our populace and never give up in spite of difficulties,” he said.

The village came into the international spotlight in 2011, when rallies and protests against corruption caught the world’s attention, followed by a democratic election in 2012.

The latest elections on Monday and Tuesday are in the world’s headlines again, with doubters convinced that continued corruption signals the failure of the villager’s attempts to govern themselves. March of this year saw the exposure of yet more corruption, when deputy chiefs chosen in the second ballot Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao were detained by police accused of taking bribes.

Lin is extremely distressed by projects lying unfinished in his village due to corruption. “This village committee was elected by the villagers themselves, but some of the new committee repeated the mistakes of the previous committee, less than a year later. This is a cause for deep introspection,” he said.

The scandals, Lin believes, have had a limited effect on the election. Problems, he said, must be exposed to avoid the same mistakes being made by the next leadership, and villagers have the right to know the truth.

 

 

DEMOCRATIC ELECTION

 

Wukan’s latest election was by secret ballot with open, public counting of the votes. A total of 8,248 ballots were claimed at the polling station on Monday from a electorate of more than 9,000.

Lin was elected outright. The other committee members will be chosen in Tuesday’s vote, as no other candidate claimed the required quota on Monday.

“The result is normal,” said Huang Yongqing, a local voter.

Anyone above the age of 18 can vote and voting by proxy is permitted. On Monday, Wu Luping, 53, was entrusted by his family to cast a total of seven votes. Another villager voted on behalf of ten people, because he had documents giving him power of attorney.

“Without the documents, you cannot vote for others, including members of your family,” Wu added.

Wu expects a “capable” village committee this time: “We can’t believe that the second committee we elected in 2012 was also corrupt. The next committee should talk less and do more. Corruption must not rear its head again.”

Huang Yongqing, who works in Shenzhen City, came 400 km to cast his vote: “Only through electing an unselfish leadership can the village keep on the right track.”

Former deputy chief of the village committee Yang Semao, out on bail and awaiting his bribery trial, won more than 2,000 votes in the race to head up the new committee, far fewer than Lin. He also scored over 1,000 votes in his attempt to become deputy director, but has decided to give way to other candidates, claiming he needs “a bigger role” to display his true capability.

“I believe that the committee must take a hard line to hack through the thicket of problems that Wukan faces,” he said.

Yang’s aggressive approach is precisely what Lin Zulian disagrees with. Problems like land disputes are caused by a host of complex factors that cannot be solved in radical ways.

“When it comes to land disputes, for example, we need to take into account the opinions of other villages. This not only takes time, but requires compromise,” Lin said.

 

 

DEVELOPMENT IN FOCUS

 

The fundamental issue facing the villagers is the retrieval of land which has been illegally taken from them, according to Zhang Jinshui, deputy secretary of the village’s Communist Party of China committee.

“Development of the village relies largely on government financial support. Wukan’s own economic activities are bogged down, partly thanks to persistent protests,” said Zhang.

Over the past two years, villagers have taken back more than 5,000 mu (330 hectares) of land which was illegally taken from their control. Governments at provincial and city levels have earmarked tens of millions of yuan to improve village life. Beyond these government funds, the village has very little collective income.

Lin Zulian believes the future for Wukan is impossibly bleak, unless a sustainable solution which protects the interests of villagers can be guaranteed. He has pledged the new committee will retrieve lost land, but the real goal is to develop the village’s own economy.

Villager Wu agrees that the new committee must put development on top of their agenda. There is a clear need for some property development and a large factory will be built in the village.

“Some said the enthusiasm of voters would cool down, but I disagree. I think Wukan has good prospects if the new leadership keeps their hands clean, and do their job,” said Wu after casting his vote. Enditem [ Xinhua correspondents Zhong Qun, Ma Xiaocheng also contributed to the story.

 

 

 

 

 

Wukan village election ends

 

 

By Wang Pan, Zhan Yijia, Ma Xiaocheng and Cheng Lu

Two deputy chiefs and four committee members were elected in a second ballot on Tuesday in Wukan Village, as no candidate gained the required quota in Monday’s vote.

Lin Zulian, 68, was reelected Monday as chief of the new village committee with 5,019 votes from more than 8,000 cast on Monday.

A total of 7,767 ballots were claimed at the polling station from a electorate of more than 9,000 in Tuesday’s vote. Hong Ruichao and Sun Wenliang were elected deputy chiefs, while Zhang Jiancheng, Cai Jingqun, Lin Junqing and Yang Xiaoyan were chosen as committee members.

Wukan was thrown into the international spotlight in 2011 when residents protested for months against the village committee’s illegal land grabs, corruption, violations of financing and election rules.

A rerun of the election, a national tryout of self-governance, democracy and the rule of law, was held in March 2012, and Lin Zulian was elected chief of the committee.

However, March of this year saw more corruption scandals. Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, deputy chiefs of the village committee, were detained by police over allegations that they took bribes in handling public projects.

Sources with Lufeng city said that since Hong Ruichao was not deprived of his political rights, he still enjoyed the right to vote and be elected, so his reelection was valid. If he were to be convicted in the future, however, his position would be terminated.

Villagers hope the new committee could put development on top of their agenda. There is a clear need for some property development and a large factory will be built in the village.

“I think Wukan has good prospects if the new leadership keeps their hands clean, and do their job,” said the 53-year-old villager Wu Luping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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