The people in Wukan, town of south China became famous after a rebellion against its corrupt cadres, voted Saturday and Sunday in an election.
With the endorsement of the communist authorities, the election has unprecedented high symbolic value in a one-party country. The coastal village of Guangdong Province was able to organize an open ballot in which voters freely chose the seven members of their village committee.
“We all feel that it is a success. It had a great influence on people and I think it helped increase the awareness of Wukan residents,” said Hong Tianbin, head of a committee appointed to oversee the election.
The 13,000 inhabitants of Wukan were engaged in a rebellion in last December, exasperated by land seizures for years.
Despite the censorship, the uprising had been followed on microblogs in China and the fishing village soon became a symbol of democratic aspirations in China, which led by the Communist Party for six decades.
The people had driven out cadres accused of seizing land for sale to developers before that repression is unleashed. The town was blockaded, one of the arrested leaders of the revolt died in prison under suspicious circumstances.
Against all odds, the Guangdong government had finally made concessions, including accepting the organization of this singular election, a first step took place on February 11.
That Saturday, the people had elected a hundred representatives that were present in turn the candidates for election this weekend.
Some 6,800 villagers have voted in the polls, or 81% of registered voters but only two candidates have reached the number of votes required for election. Villagers have formed a long queue in front of makeshift booths in the courtyard of a school, to write the seven names on a ballot and slip it into a metal urn.
“It’s really important,” confided one of them, named Chen. “We hope the government of Lufeng will contact to resolve the land issue. The rest is not so important.”
Zuluan Lin, one of the leaders of the revolt, was elected leader of the village committee and Communist Party chief for Wukan with 6,205 votes, replacing corrupt businessman who had served for 42 years. Semao Yan was elected deputy leader with 3,609 votes, reported the official Xinhua news agency.
The five other members were to be elected on Sunday, but the results were not yet known in the early evening.
In China, where leaders are not elected directly by the people, the villagers can vote for a local committee. But in general the candidates are nominated by the Party, without opposition. And when there are multiple candidates, fraud is common.
Even though this election has attracted less interest in the Chinese press, and rather quiet internationally, it has inspired many petitioners of other regions came to Wukan trying to take advantage of advertising to promote their own grievances. On microblogs, the Chinese experience also followed with interest. “Wukan wrote the first page in the history of post-modern China,” wrote a user by referring to a “historic breakthrough”.