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Wukan

Guangdong communist boss goes to ground zero of grass-roots democracy crackdown

Politburo member Hu Chunhua makes appearance in Wukan to try to improve chances of promotion with show of loyalty, analysts say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 7:01am

After five years as Guangdong’s Communist Party boss, Hu Chunhua made his first trip last week to a village at the centre of a crackdown on grass-roots democracy.

Hu, a Politburo member, is a front runner for higher office at the national party congress later this year and analysts said his high-profile trip to Wukan on Thursday and Friday was meant to bolster his prospects for ­promotion.

Wukan, a fishing village of just 13,000 people, made international headlines in 2011 when a long-running land dispute and the death of an activist in custody triggered pitched battles between police and residents.

Conflict erupted again in September last year after police took away dozens of village leaders. Security forces suppressed the violence with tear gas and rubber bullets, and locked down the village for days.

Hu was widely believed to have ordered the crackdown.

According to the Southern ­Metropolis News, Hu said that since last year the village had “strengthened the building of the party’s grass-roots organisation and made progress in resolving the land disputes according to the law”.

Harsh sentences for Wukan protesters could backfire

Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Hu was trying to draw attention to his loyalty and tough stand to ­improve his chances of being propelled to the apex of political power – a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee.

“Political figures do things ­according to timing,” Chen said.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University political science professor Chen Yao said Hu was sending a message that grass-roots authorities had to toe the party’s line.

“His crackdown and the latest inspection in Wukan will certainly gain credit for him as he jockeys for a top position,” Chen Yao said.

According to the Southern ­Metropolis News, a new village party committee and village management committee – two structures the party uses to govern villages – had been installed.

The report quoted Hu as saying the two committees should comprise cadres with “strong abilities”. Grass-roots governance should also be improved, he said.

Hu is the highest ranking official to have visited the village.

China upholds corruption conviction of Wukan village chief

In 2012, when villagers voted for their own chief under a deal with the authorities after the 2011 riots, then deputy provincial party chief Zhu Mingguo made an ­appearance in Wukan.

Lin Zuluan won the popular vote but the community continued to be dogged by land disputes. In June last year, Lin was secretly taken from his home at night and jailed. Angry residents unleashed a new wave of unrest in September, prompting police to send more than 1,000 officers to the village. More than 100 villagers were injured and dozens arrested.