Wukan, China’s Democratic Experiment

Wukan, China’s Democratic Experiment

Wukan, a village in China’s Guangdong province, is now on lockdown after a violent clash on Tuesday. The riot broke out over unresolved land disputes and the recent conviction sentence of leader Lin Zuluan. Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the crowd and have restricted entrance into the village. Even food delivery is prohibited, and police are still hunting down instigators of the protests. Conditions within the village remain unclear as the Chinese government has repressed coverage of the riots after videos leaked and substantiated the police’s use of tear gas. Earlier this week, several Hong Kong reporters were assaulted and detained while conducting interviews, and BBC journalists were prevented from entering the village.

The cause of this unrest can be traced back to 2011, when the villagers of Wukan were victimized by land deals that forced them to relocate without adequate reimbursement. After mass protests over such illegal land seizures and government corruption, the village won a compromise allowing Wukan to hold its own elections. The villagers elected Lin Zuluan and 106 other village representatives in their first election in 2012.

Despite these ground-breaking democratic advancements, the village chief was detained in June after planning protests against a series of land grabs. Lin was later formally arrested and convicted of two corruption charges on September 8, inciting protests against the decision.

Although Wukan only has a small population of 20,000, the situation in Wukan sobers expectations for democratic development in China, especially in rural areas of the country.

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