Handling of Wukan unrest praised

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2011, 12:00am


Leading scholars and the son of a late Communist Party chief have praised the way Guangdong authorities handled the dispute over government land grabs in Wukan village, Shanwei, saying it set a precedent for the handling of future public grievances.

The scholars spoke at a forum last Thursday, as provincial officials defused tensions in the village after accepting villagers' demands and blaming the conflict on pent-up social ills. Forum speakers also called for a higher level of democracy and the rule of law to avoid such conflicts.

'I hope that the Wukan incident can push society to establish a system which is based on democracy and the rule of law,' Hu Deping, the son of former Communist Party general secretary Hu Yaobang, said in remarks posted on a website about his father's legacy. 'I hope that when we are faced with similar problems in the future, we can resort to the rule of law and negotiation.

'The government has recognised the cadres and autonomous organisations chosen by the people of Wukan. I think this is significant and I hope this can continue.'

Wang Changjiang, a department director at the central party school, blamed the incident on a lack of democracy. 'It seems that we are more democratic than the US, as the villagers can elect who they want,' he said. 'But there is no democracy afterwards. Policy formulation is not democratic, and there is no democratic participation by local people or monitoring of the government. Therefore, those in power can use the power in the way they want.'

Tensions in the village flared in September over what villagers alleged was the illegal sale of their farmland. The tensions started escalating when one of the village leaders, Xue Jinbo, died in police custody.

Villagers vowed to stage a mass protest against the Lufeng city government but cancelled their plan after Zhu Mingguo, deputy party secretary of the province, agreed to return Xue's body to his family and release detained villagers.

Participants at the forum blamed local officials for ignoring the risk of the dispute and branding village representatives as their 'enemies'.

'The key to the solution of the Wukan incident is how you perceive community organisation. You have to take it positively. Community groups are not enemies, but they are diversified,' said Jiang Xiaoxing, a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Professor Ren Jiantao, a political scientist at Renmin University, said officials should devise a mechanism for tackling mass incidents based on the experience of Wukan.