12/22/2011, 00.00
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Wukan residents win (maybe)

Provincial authorities recognise locally elected committee, remove fraudulently elected local officials and promise a new investigation into the (suspicious) death of a demonstrator. Beijing is concerned about growing social unrest; press blames Communist leaders for letting a protest get out of hand.
Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After months of protests and two weeks of police blockade, residents in the southern Chinese village of Wukan appear to have won their case against land grabs and electoral manipulation. Provincial authorities have recognised the legality of the committee set up by residents. They have also removed Communist leaders elected in rigged polls and pledged an investigation into the death of one of the protest leaders.

After a 90-minute meeting in Lufeng with deputy Guangdong party chief Zhu Mingguo and Shanwei party chief Zheng Yanxiong, village leader Lin Zuluan, who led to fight against corruption, said that the village had achieved a "rather ideal" solution.

"They [Zhu and Zheng] acknowledged the wrongdoings of individual corrupt officials," Lin said. "Recognising the legal status of Wukan's temporary village committee paves the way for a future land deal solution to be recognised legally, too."

The situation became tense in Wukan in September when hundreds of residents stormed the municipal building and a police station to protest land seizures.

After national authorities promised to look into the matter, tensions decreased. However, when the investigation by local authorities produced nothing, the protest movement started again. Matters got worse when one of the protest leaders died during a police interrogation. Provincial authorities told Lin that the death would be investigated.

Villages welcomed the news. They removed their banners and barricades. However, their victory might be short-lived.

National media, including Communist Party’s official newspaper The People’s Daily, slammed local authorities for letting a protest over land seizures get out of hand and urged authorities around the country to “put the public first”. However, public here means social stability rather than people’s rights.

By contrast, the English language newspaper Global Times called on local governments around the country to “take every quarrel from the people seriously”.

The Wukan case drew the attention of Beijing as well. Apparently, President Hu Jintao twice inquired about the trouble in Wukan. Many provincial leaders also criticised their colleagues.

Chinese authorities fear social unrest, which is growing year after year. In 2010, the number of “mass incidents” topped 180,000.
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