Villagers vow to continue democracy
Members of the committee that will oversee an election in Wukan village, in Lufeng, Guangdong, next month have vowed to pass its nascent democratic tradition down from generation to generation and hold direct elections every three years.
'I am very happy to win trust among our villagers, and I will make every effort to make sure our village committee will be elected under a clean, fair and just process,' said Zhang Shuimei, who won the most votes in a direct election for the 11 members of the village's new election committee on Wednesday.
'We will have such open, fair and just democratic elections every three years in the future, and all of us should work together to safeguard our democratic tradition and spirit and pass it down from generation to generation.' The committee will oversee the election of Wukan's village committee on March 1 and will not be able to stand as candidates.
Zhang, who won 2,069 votes on Wednesday, is the father of Zhang Jiancheng, one of four protest leaders arrested by police in December over last year's mass protest against illegal land grabs. Hong Tianbin, who got the second-highest number of votes - 1,812 - is the father of another protest leader, Hong Ruichao .
One of the four protest leaders arrested, Xue Jinbo, died in custody. Villagers have blamed police brutality for his death but police say he died of a heart attack.
Zhang Shuimei said yesterday his sons had played key roles in winning support from villagers. Hong Ruichao said villagers respected his father. 'My father was elected not because of me, but because our determinations and capabilities to serve the villagers moved them,' he said.
Yang Semao, the former chairman of Wukan's temporary village representative committee, said they had faced several technical problems in Wednesday's election which showed where improvements were needed for next month's village committee poll.
'We have to improve our chaotic hukou [household] registry because we found some villagers didn't receive their voting registration slips in time, while others got duplicates,' he said. 'But we have learned a lot by launching such practical and meaningful democratic activities.'
One Wukan villager who requested anonymity said that besides democracy, villagers also realised the importance of co-operation.
'We didn't look after each other before because different clansmen in our village preferred to do their own business rather than negotiate together,' he said. 'But this time, we found that when we work together, we can gain much more.'
Xiong Wei, a Beijing-based advocate of parliamentary democracy who visited the village to monitor Wednesday's election, said that Western parliamentary culture had taken root in the small fishing village. 'Villagers in Wukan have successfully turned their street politics into a democratic election,' Xiong said. 'The village committee to be elected by them will also play a role as a small council to balance the local government's power.'
'It's a symbolic victory for all street politics on the mainland and will set up a hopeful model for other villages to study and follow.'