03/14/2014, 00.00
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Wukan protest leader arrested before elections

Yang Semao became deputy village chief after corrupt leaders were expelled for selling farmers' land. The Wukan revolt led to democratic elections, becoming a model for other villages. However, the Communist Party is reappointing the corrupt old guard to nip in the bud the local experiment with democracy.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews) - Wukan protest leader Yang Semao has been arrested, accused of taking bribes, before local elections. He had led a campaign against corrupt officials in his home village of Wukan (Guangdong). Residents now fear the Communist Party has decided to go after him in order to ensure the victory of a member of the old guard involved in land grabs.

The government information department in the nearby city of Lufeng confirmed on its social media account that Yang Semao (pictured) was detained on Thursday afternoon, without giving details of the allegations against him.

Three years ago, riots had broken out when the old village chief had sold land without the residents' knowledge.

The resistance shown by locals was reported in world media, forcing the Party to sack the old chief and village committee, allowing for open competitive elections.

Six protest leaders were eventually voted into office in the seven-seat committee. They included Lin Zuluan and Yang himself who became the new village chief and deputy chief respectively.

As a result of the victory in Wukan, people in other villages tried to do the same thing, so that over several months, a 'Wukan model' emerged.

However, since then, the local committee has not been able to get either the money paid for the land or the land itself because of opposition from the Communist Party.

As new elections approached, the latter reappointed members of the old guard who had been forced out of their villages. They include Yubao Xue, named Party deputy secretary in Wukan, and four others.

When Yang Semao decided to run again for office to prevent the election of corrupt officials, he was arrested yesterday, a day after the campaign had officially kicked off.

Wukan residents believe that with Yang's detention the authorities want to kill in the bud the village's nascent democracy.

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