Wukan, a village of 20,000 in southern China’s Guangdong province, received international media attention after its residents staged a series of protests against the local government, accusing its officials of corruption and taking their farmland. The protests led to a three-month standoff that ended peacefully in December 2011 after central government representatives agreed to dismiss officials, redistribute land and allow for an election.
Too early to call Wukan experiment a failure, village adviser says
Wukan's venture into democracy has not failed, a scholar who advised villagers during their historic elections said yesterday. The Guangdong village just needs to fix its immature political system.
As Wukan last month marked the first anniversary of its free elections, villagers expressed frustration that their new freely elected village representatives had failed to negotiate the return of most of the land sold by the corrupt previous leadership.
But Xiong Wei, a Beijing-based legal activist who advised Wukan , told a forum at the Chinese University of Hong Kong yesterday that the village just needed time.
"We intellectuals are responsible for these high expectations," Xiong said. "Villagers expected a solution to their land dispute. But the current system does not permit negotiating agreements on the land dispute."
The current village leadership committee was too dominant to seek consensus, while the village assembly was too large and diffuse to reach a consensus on its own, he said. The village needed to find a middle ground.
Xiong, who began his activism as a journalist in 1998, now runs the New Enlightenment think tank. He said Wukan is one of four villages he is advising.
He said he would continue to try to make the Wukan experiment work, since he saw it as a potential model for quelling social unrest.
Each day, the mainland sees more than 270 "mass incidents" involving more than 100 people, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences study found in December, adding that land grabs triggered most.