'Wukan-style' protests lead to trio's suspension
Three senior Communist Party officials in Guangzhou's Wanggang village have been suspended, in the city government's first concrete response since villagers staged a 'Wukan-style' protest against illegal land occupation and alleged corruption last month.
Villagers said officials from the Jiahe sub-district met Wanggang party members yesterday and announced that Wanggang party secretary Li Zhihang and two of his deputies would be temporarily suspended. Villagers said Li made more than 400 million yuan (HK$492 million) by occupying collective land.
Villagers said sub-district officials suspended the three because the village party committee lacked unity.
'They also said that in the past three years, since Li took office, there were too many examples of illegal construction,' one 38-year-old villager said. 'They also said the authorities had found that 570 mu [38 hectares] of farmland had been illegally reclaimed.'
About 1,000 Wanggang villagers rallied at the Guangzhou city government headquarters for a third time when the annual session of the Guangdong provincial people's congress closed before the Lunar New Year holiday. They vowed to turn Wanggang into 'Guangdong's second Wukan', and called for the immediate suspension of Li and the return of their land.
Their petition was met with a swift conciliatory response, with Guangzhou vice-mayor Xie Xiaodan sent to negotiate with five village representatives.
Some of the villagers lit firecrackers to celebrate the suspensions.
'Of course everyone is very happy to see such a corrupt official being suspended but I'm afraid he might be re-elected again because he has bribed quite a few party members,' a 30-year-old villager said.
A 60-year-old villager said it was the villagers' first victory after almost 10 petitions to various levels of government fell on deaf ears.
'We have fought for years. I think this has to do with the new mayor, Chen Jianhua, who might be a more liberal leader,' the villager said. 'That and the Wukan village effect - it was pursuing similar problems and became famous.'
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 villagers gathered in Wukan yesterday for a memorial for protest leader Xue Jinbo, who died in police custody last year aged 43. The eastern Guangdong fishing village had protested for months over corruption.
Zhuang Liehong, a recently elected village representative, said villagers remained calm.
'Xue's bereaved daughter Jianwan and party secretary Lin Zuluan spoke at the event,' Zhuang said. 'She pledged to follow in her father's path by contributing to meaningful work for villagers. She sounded very firm and strong.'
Zhuang said many villagers were still upset because the circumstances of Xue's death remained unclear. His family agreed to stop pursuing the cause of death in return for the release of his body for burial.
Xue was taken away in December, during intense protests over illegal land grabs by government officials. His death triggered massive support for the villagers.
The amount of money, in yuan, that Wukan residents say has been embezzled by officials in their village