Reform seekers flock to village vote
As Wukan villagers cast ballots to reclaim governance of their community, people were flowing in from Guangdong and beyond, hoping to learn from Wukan's example and air their own grievances for the 100-odd journalists and observers witnessing the milestone event.
A handful of Cantonese-speaking Huangtian villagers, who live near Shenzhen airport in Baoan district, wandered by a playground at Wukan Primary School yesterday, trying to grab reporters who could spare a moment to hear their stories.
'For 30 years, our village's finance records have never been revealed to the public,' said Lin Yongguang, a 41-year-old baker. 'The power of the whole village is controlled in the hands of a single family.'
'The party secretary sold our collective land at a dirt-cheap price to his son,' he said. 'Two of our villagers who had petitioned against the corruption have been detained for more than four months.'
Lin said he was moved by the orderly scene of Wukan's election.
'It's amazing to see how successful their election is. People are so united together.'
A group of Pingle villagers from Jinxiang township in eastern Guangdong's Lufeng city had their own woes to relate. They said a dam had for the past two decades been rented out and used as a fish pond for a mere 1,800 yuan (HK$2,200) a year.
'We have no water to irrigate our farmland during winter when they drain the dam,' said one of the villagers, Zheng Shuchang, 35. 'Our land subsidy has also been stolen by village officials; each of us gets only 62 yuan for three years.'
'We want our stories to be heard by the world as no local press will talk to us,' Zheng said. 'We also want to learn from Wukan's election model. Our village's election is so messed up that ballot results are never counted in public or disclosed.'
'The residents' united spirit [in Wukan] is something we can learn from. I wish to see a fair and open election in our village one day.'
Meanwhile, a man who had been locked up for more than 15 months in a detention centre in Lufeng's neighbouring city of Haifeng carried around a plastic bag full of petition materials that he handed to reporters outside the ballot station.
Yuan Hanjie, who had been opposing the practice of illegal land sales in Meixing village, Meilong county, told of how he was framed for the undeserved jail term: 'I had been petitioning for years and approaching different levels of government petition offices, but no one cares much about our suffering.'
Land grabs were also a concern for Hua Youjuan, the recently elected head of Huangshan village committee in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. Hua said her father and a fellow villager were arrested eight months ago while petitioning to get their land back.
She was in Wukan, she said, hoping to speak to international journalists and to learn from the village's model. Hua and her mother were closely watched by the authorities yesterday.
Villagers said Hua arrived last week and her mother reportedly poured petrol on herself in an attempt to set herself on fire. She was stopped before any harm was done.