Resolution of dispute a boost for Wang Yang
The Communist Party's top newspaper yesterday lauded a compromise agreement reached between a Guangdong village and local officials that peacefully ended almost two weeks of conflict, giving its tacit backing to provincial party secretary Wang Yang , who is seen as a contender for elevation to the party's top decision-making body late next year.
The People's Daily editorial blamed the protests in Wukan village on officials' mishandling of villagers' complaints over land disputes - a rare departure from the hardline government position on dissent.
'The local government's mistake was that it did not take villagers' reasonable demands seriously, so their rational complaints escalated into extreme actions,' it said.
Protest banners in the village were removed on Wednesday after a senior provincial Communist Party official offered concessions, including the release of three young villagers from detention and authorisation of a temporary village committee.
'This political courage of correcting its own mistake has reflected our party's mission: to be responsible for the interests of the masses is to be responsible for the party's work,' the paper said.
The compromise offer is seen as a victory for villagers that sets a precedent for the handling of riots by provincial governments. In a departure from the earlier hardline rhetoric of subordinates, Wang had acknowledged the villagers had cause to complain. Zheng Yanxiong, party chief of Shanwei - which oversees Wukan affairs - accused villagers on Sunday of 'colluding with foreign media to cause trouble.' .
Emotions ran high over the weekend following the death of 42-year-old village representative Xue Jinbo in custody a week earlier. He was among villagers held over protests against a government land grab that first flared in September.
There was earlier speculation that the crisis could jeopardise Wang's chances of joining the Politburo Standing Committee next year. But analysts say the peaceful settlement of the stand-off in Wukan will score him some political points.
'Under the scrutiny of the international media, the ability to handle 'mass incidents' would definitely score points for Wang,' Yu Yiwei, vice-president of the Guangdong Humanities Society, said.
Zhang Lifan, a historian formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said 'the Wukan model' was a landmark for the resolution of the mainland's ubiquitous land disputes.
'This incident was a test for Wang and he made a wise choice - his choice of non-confrontational, peaceful negotiations was a good move for his career,' Zhang said.
Additional reporting by Sally Wang