Democracy needs time in Wukan village

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 3:55am


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The people of the Guangdong fishing village of Wukan are at a crossroads. Almost a year after a landmark election that replaced corrupt officials with leaders of protests against illegal land grabs, discontent is rife that what was promised has not been delivered. Where once there was a widespread belief that a model had been created for communities across the nation to follow, there is now disappointment. But being able to choose representatives was a significant achievement. What has been gained cannot be thrown away for the sake of self-interest.

It is now clear that, for some villagers, the process was only about getting land back. Yet invaluable lessons were learned on shared problem solving. Villagers' agitation between September and late December 2011 prompted unprecedented concessions from Communist Party chiefs. Paramilitary troops ended a blockade, long-time officials were arrested and a series of elections gave farmers control over their village.

But those who have been elected need time to come to grips with their new jobs. About 40 per cent of the land that was seized has still not been given back and frustration abounds. Lin Zuluan, a protest leader who was elected party chief and village head, has had enough. He says he can no longer take the pressure of trying to fulfil expectations. It is in nobody's interest that he quits. Only through perseverance and determination will Wukan's problems be resolved.

At the heart of the matter is education. Those involved have to have the skills and motivation to always work together. Individual concerns have to be put to one side so that problems can be handled with the common good in mind. Teaching and acquiring such abilities can be a drawn-out process for those unfamiliar with such concepts.

It is wrong to write off the Wukan experiment as a failure. More time and effort is needed for it to take root. Those involved have to make a greater effort to nurture what is for mainland China an important part of its development.