Rebellious Chinese Village Starts Election Process of New Local Leaders

Posted February 1st, 2012 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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Residents in the restive southern Chinese village, Wukan, have begun the process to elect new village leaders, in what many see as a small and rare victory for protesters and rights activists in the authoritarian country.

After weeks of protests against allegedly illegal land grabs and local government corruption, officials in the province of Guangdong unexpectedly conceded that the villagers' demands were reasonable, firing the responsible village leaders.

The Wednesday vote will select an 11-member independent committee that will supervise a March First election of new village representation.

Many residents casting their ballots in the fishing community said it was their village's first ever democratic election. However, some people were skeptical that the old corrupt officials would eventually regain power.

Although China's non-elected Communist Party maintains absolute control of all levels of government, Beijing has in recent decades experimented with village-level democratic elections.

Such elections are common, but the situation in Wukan is unique in that its election was the result of weeks of unrest.

The protests peaked in December when one of the town's representatives died in police custody. The death prompted residents to take control of Wukan, forcing Communist Party officials to flee and police to cordon off the village.

After a dramatic 10-day standoff between residents and police, officials acknowledged that mistakes had been made at the local level and promised a new election of local leaders.