Govt urges Wukan to avoid radical actions

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/20 0:23:01

Village chief detained for alleged bribery

Authorities in Lufeng, South China's Guangdong Province, urged local villagers to avoid taking radical actions as thousands of people took to the streets Sunday to demand the release of their village chief, who has been in office since an unprecedented election in 2012. 

Lin Zulian, the Party chief of Wukan village under the city of Lufeng, was investigated for suspected embezzlement Friday, two days before the village's conference to discuss a petition to local government over illegal land grabs.

Lin was placed under coercive measures by the People's Procuratorate of Lufeng, the city's public security bureau announced Saturday on its Sina Weibo account. 

The bureau urged villagers to cooperate to "safeguard the hard-won social stability and avoid radical actions."

Banners demanding Lin's release, together with national flags, were held by demonstrators as they marched along the village streets on Sunday.

"We [Lin's relatives] haven't been informed about the probe, and have no idea where my grandfather has been detained," Lin's grandson, Lin Liyi, told the Global Times on Sunday.

He added the family will resort to legal methods to demand the release of his grandfather, as he believes the bribery accusations are fabricated to stop the village's petition to the local government on Tuesday.

Despite Lin Zulian's detention, a village conference discussing the petition went ahead Sunday as scheduled. The meeting decided to continue their petition to the local government of Lufeng on Tuesday, adding it will be carried out in a civil way, said Lin Liyi.

Armed police were also spotted alongside the demonstration and at the village on Sunday, according to photos and video filmed by local residents.

In December 2011, Wukan, a fishing village with a population of 15,000, made international headlines when thousands of villagers smashed the police station and patrol cars to protest illegal land grabs and corruption of local officials.

Their four-month protest eventually led to an unprecedented democratic election in March 2012, when Lin Zulian, head of the protest, was elected chief of the village Party committee by 6,205 out of 6,812 voters.

Lin was re-elected with over 5,000 votes out of 8,000 in 2014.

Not the whole picture

Though the practice of Wukan is regarded by many, both at home and abroad, as an example of China's practice of grass-roots democracy, villagers and experts said the "Wukan democratic trial" should not be over-analyzed.

"The idea and practice of democracy should not be simplified, and the election is not the whole picture," Feng Yue, a political science expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

"Expecting self-selected leaders to solve all problems is idealistic," he said. 

Even locals agree. "What happens in Wukan stays in Wukan," Lin Zulian previously told the Global Times in 2014, adding that it can't represent all of China.

Though more than 330 hectares of land that were illegally transferred, allotted or left idle in Wukan were returned to the village by 2014, villagers complained that the elected leadership failed to claim as much land back as they expected.

Meanwhile, several village officials have been probed and jailed for receiving bribes.

"The Wukan democratic election wasn't the only one. Over 600,000 village committees have been launched in China, and 98 percent were directly elected," Vice Civil Affairs Minister Jiang Li was quoted as saying in 2013 by news site

However, problems in Wukan reflect the common difficulties faced by China's grass-roots governance, said an expert in local government affairs who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Power and interests remain in upper-level government bodies, while responsibilities and pressures gather at local levels that have less autonomy," the expert said. 

Newspaper headline: Govt urges Wukan to keep away from radical actions

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