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烏坎事件:中共必須面對問題根源 - M. Moore
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Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back

Something extraordinary has happened in the Chinese village of Wukan.

Malcolm Moore, 12/13/11

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.

Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.

Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.

But on Tuesday The Daily Telegraph managed to gain access through a tight security cordon and witnessed the new reality in this coastal village.

Thousands of Wukan’s residents, incensed at the death of one of their leaders in police custody, gathered for a second day in front of a triple-roofed pagoda that serves as the village hall.

For five hours they sat on long benches, chanting, punching the air in unison and working themselves into a fury.

At the end of the day, a fifteen minute period of mourning for their fallen villager saw the crowd convulsed in sobs and wailing for revenge against the local government.

“Return the body! Return our brother! Return our farmland! Wukan has been wronged! Blood debt must be paid! Where is justice?” the crowd screamed out.

Wukan’s troubles began in September, when the villagers’ collective patience snapped at an attempt to take away their land and sell it to property developers.

“Almost all of our land has been taken away from us since the 1990s but we were relaxed about it before because we made our money from fishing,” said Yang Semao, one of the village elders. “Now, with inflation rising, we realise we should grow more food and that the land has a high value.”

Thousands of villagers stormed the local government offices, chasing out the party secretary who had governed Wukan for three decades. In response, riot police flooded the village, beating men, women and children indiscriminately, according to the villagers.

In the aftermath, the local government tried to soothe the bruised villagers, asking them to appoint 13 of their own to mediate between the two sides – a move which was praised. But after anger bubbled over again local officials hatched another plan to bring the rebellious village back under control. Last Friday, at 11.45 in the morning, four minibuses without license plates drove into Wukan and a team of men in plain clothes seized five of the village’s 13 representatives from a roadside restaurant.

A second attack came at 4am on Sunday morning, when a thousand armed police approached the entrance to the village.

“We had a team of 20 people watching out, and they saw the police searchlights. We had blocked the road with fallen trees to buy us time,” said Chen Xidong, a 23 year old. “They banged the warning drum and the entire village ran to block the police.”

After a tense two-hour standoff, during which the villagers were hit with tear gas and water cannons, the police retreated, instead setting up the ring of steel around Wukan that is in force today. The village’s only source of food, at present, are the baskets of rice, fruit and vegetables carried across the fields on the shoulder poles of friendly neighbours.

Then, on Monday, came the news that Xue Jinbo, one of the snatched representatives, had died in police custody, at the age of 43, from a heart attack. His family believe he was murdered.

“There were cuts and bruises on the corners of his mouth and on his forehead, and both his nostrils were full of blood,” said Xue Jianwan, his 21-year-old daughter. “His chest was grazed and his thumbs looked like they had been broken backwards. Both his knees were black,” she added. “They refused to release the body to us.”

Mr Xue’s death has galvanised his supporters and brought the explosive situation in the village to the brink. “We are not sleeping. A hundred men are keeping watch. We do not know what the government’s next move will be, but we know we cannot trust them ever again,” said Mr Chen. “I think they will try to prolong the situation, to sweat us out.”

From behind the roadblock, a propaganda war has broken out. Banners slung by the side of the main road to Wukan urge drivers to “Safeguard stability against anarchy – Support the government!” Nearby, someone has scrawled, simply: “Give us back our land.”

The news of Wukan’s loss has been censored inside China. But a blue screen, which interrupts television programmes every few minutes inside the village, insists that the “incidents” are the work of a seditious minority, and have now been calmed. “It is all lies,” said Ms Xue.

Her brother, meanwhile, said life had improved since the first officials were driven out three months ago. “We found we were better at administration. The old officials turned out not to have had any accounts in their office, so they must have been swindling us. And we have a nightwatch now, to keep the village safe. We have all bonded together,” said Xue Jiandi, 19.

With enough food to keep going in the short-term and a pharmacy to tend to the sick, the leaders of Wukan are confident about their situation.

But it is difficult to imagine that it will be long before the Communist Party returns, and there are still four villagers in police custody.

“I have just been to see my 25-year-old son,” Shen Shaorong, the mother of Zhang Jianding, one of the four, said as she cried on her knees. “He has been beaten to a pulp and his clothes were ripped. Please tell the government in Beijing to help us before they kill us all,”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8954315/Inside-Wukan-the-Chinese-village-that-fought-back.html 



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烏坎事件:水能載舟亦能覆舟 - J. Fenby
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Will China’s rulers listen to the voices of its downtrodden masses?

The protests in Wukan are a nightmare for the Communist rulers of a divided country.

Jonathan Fenby, 12/15/11

The six-day-old confrontation between residents and the authorities in the village of Wukan in southern China is dramatic evidence of the volatility of the last major state on earth ruled by a Communist party. Three decades of economic growth since the patriarch Deng Xiaoping partially embraced market mechanisms at the end of the 1970s has made more people materially better off in a shorter space of time than ever before in human history. But that process has thrown up a plethora of problems from which the leadership has generally shied away as it concentrated on two linked objectives – to maintain high economic growth and to ensure the continuation of Communist rule over the world’s most heavily populated country.

But now the internal contradictions of the People’s Republic are pressing in on the leadership, just as it moves towards a wholesale change in the party’s ruling Politburo and the state government starting next October. Increasingly, Chinese people are ready to take to the streets to protest over issues ranging from the requisitioning of their land and homes to corruption, from poisoning of the environment to police abuses. Nobody knows quite how many such protests occur each year, but estimates run at 150,000 or more. Many are settled, but some escalate into violence.

The revolt in Wukan, reported from inside the lines by The Daily Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore, is the latest – if the largest – instance of this eruption of discontent. The mood is reflected in opinion polls showing that, while Chinese generally take pride in their country’s material renaissance, they are increasingly worried by the way in which the nation is evolving. This concern is sparked by the widening gap between rich and poor, recurrent food safety scandals, high property prices and by the evolution of what is seen as a two-speed society in which those with connections profit hugely, while the rest are left to rub along as best they can.

The problem for the leadership in its walled-off compound beside the Forbidden City in Beijing is that many of the causes of popular anger are deeply embedded in the way the country is run. As a result, serious reform would raise serious issues for the party and government and run against the interests of those who sit on top of the Chinese pyramid.

The clash in Wukan, classed as a village but with 20,000 inhabitants, is symptomatic of this. It was caused by the local authorities requisitioning land, and then using force to try to head off protests.

The authorities can do the first because all land belongs to the state in China and is leased out to farmers who have no ownership rights. Local authorities lack revenue-raising powers to meet their expenditure requirements. Beijing is meant to remit central tax revenue to them, but is often quite stingy in doing so. To fill the gap, local governments grab land from farmers (and sometimes urban houses as well), reclassify the land for development and auction it off to developers, paying compensation which the leaseholders (as in Wukan) often regard as inadequate.

Why does Beijing keep local governments on short rations? In part because central officials believe that local governments waste money – runaway development after the government opened up easy credit in 2009 to stave off an economic downturn provide evidence of this. But also because of the tug-of-war between central and local authorities that runs through Chinese history since the First Emperor 2,300 years ago. To restore growth in 2009, Beijing let the local governments off the leash; it is now trying to rein them in again.

The second reason the authorities can act as they do is that the rule of law is weak. The country’s chief justice (a policeman, not a lawyer) has told judges that their first priority should be to strengthen the Communist Party. Legal reform that started early this century has been halted or reversed. This affects human rights activists – more than a dozen lawyers have been detained without charge this year and the prominent artist Ai Weiwei was held after running a dissident blog. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year jail sentence for having circulated a petition calling for democracy. But it also means that citizens with grievances often see their only recourse in direct action.

That leaves the leadership with a tricky choice. Crushing protests by force, as Deng did with the Beijing demonstrators in 1989, is increasingly difficult when complaints are so widespread. Indeed, when the central and senior provincial authorities get involved, they often try to buy off trouble – in contrast to the heavy-handed grassroots policing.

But that may spark further protests, as people feel less and less inhibited about taking to the streets. Despite the patina of a Confucian society in which moral values are respected, China has a long history of rule by force. From imperial days to the present, dissent is equated to, at best, a lack of patriotism, at worst, treason. It may seem a long stretch from Liu Xiaobo to the villagers of Wukan, but both cases illustrate the gulf between China’s material progress and the insistence of the rulers on retaining power as they seek to marry economic progress with top-down control. That union worked in the past. Whether it can survive, and whether the new leaders who take over next year can find new bottles for their Marxist-Maoist-Market wine, is a question that will resonate for China and the world for years.

Jonathan Fenby’s new book on China, 'Tiger Head, Snake Tails’, will be published in April

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8958686/Will-Chinas-rulers-listen-to-the-voices-of-its-downtrodden-masses.html



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