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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,”


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烏坎村事件後續報導 - 賴錦宏


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烏坎3維權領袖落難 民主夢碎?


聯合報記者賴錦宏/綜合報導, 03/26/14


















2014/03/25 聯合報】



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汪洋:乌坎选举依法进行 没有任何创新




  记者:刚才我本来想问一个关于金融方面的问题,但是新华社的记者问得好象跟我重了,为了珍惜这个提问的机会,我还是想请问一下汪洋书记有关乌坎事件,请您做评价,对于这次事件圆满的处理有没有什么经验?谢谢。2012-03-05 16:31:26

  汪洋:你们为什么对乌坎事件这么有兴趣,你能不能回答我一下?(笑)你能不能说一下,我采访一下你行不行。2012-03-05 16:31:28

  记者:谢谢书记,我谈一下我不太成熟的看法。我个人觉得乌坎事件对于目前深化政治体制改革有着一定的很积极的借鉴的作用。2012-03-05 16:31:30

  汪洋:我们发言受法律保护,你发言也是受法律保护。(笑) 其实今天有个思想准备大家会问乌坎事件,因为乌坎事件一个时期以来已经引起了海内外媒体的广泛关注,对于乌坎事件海内外的媒体也是仁者见仁、智者见智,正如刚才这位记者提问时所说,认为我们这件事情处理首先村民是满意的,社会也给予了积极的评价。如果把你们刚才几位记者都涉及到的这个问题串起来说,我围绕这个问题答一点意见。 第一位路透社的记者也提到了这个问题,第二位日本记者也提到了这个问题,我在回答路透社记者第一个问题时我说了我们关键是要代表最广大人民群众的根本利益,我们就能够处理好利益格局的影响,虽然有各种各样的问题影响我们改革,但是站好这个立足点非常重要。

  这次在处理乌坎事件上,我们一个重要的立足点就是判断乌坎群众所反映的诉求是不是合理合法的,我们经过初步了解以后,认为乌坎群众在土地等问题上的诉求既是合理的又是合法的,因此我们就是要代表人民群众的利益,而不是代表那个村子里面村支书所实际代表的小圈子的利益,这是我们妥善解决乌坎问题的一个立足的基本判断或者是基本点。 解决乌坎问题,刚才这位日本记者讲了,认为是我们在民主选举上开了先河,甚至刚才这位记者也讲了是因为涉及到政治体制改革,我实事求是地说一句话,乌坎的民主选举是按照村民委员会的《组织法》和《广东省村民委员会选举办法》进行的,没有任何创新,只不过我们把选举法和组织法的落实过程做得非常扎实,让这个村子在过去选举中走过场的形式做了纠正,如此而已。

  我们没有说因为担心像乌坎村这样的事件去扩散而对这个问题的处理采取一些什么变通或者其他的态度,没有!我觉得我们对乌坎村事件的处理是坚持了中国共产党的执政理念和人民政府执政为民的基本理念,就是我们要和人民群众站在一起。因此,我们从乌坎村这个问题中间也有很多启示,我也说句老实话,当时决定省委工作组到这个村里去,省委副书记当组长,副省长任副组长,并不是因为这个村子本身的矛盾已经复杂到要出动这个阵容,而是我们有这个想法要解剖麻雀,而且要取得经验,推动村级组织的建设,改进我们村这个执政的基层单位能够更好地体现我们全心全意为人民服务的这一理念。2012-03-05 16:42:48

  汪洋:我也可以说,我们来开会之前也刚刚听取了有关部门关于广东加强村级组织建设若干意见的报告,我们可能会在今年下半年适当的时候召开全省性的会议,把从乌坎这个点上取得的经验、教训用来指导全省加强村级组织建设工作。 这就是我关于这个问题的回答,谢谢。




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烏坎事件:軟實力統治的應用 - K. Ewing


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Guangdong boss bets on velvet glove

Kent Ewing, 01/06/12

HONG KONG - If, as the African proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child, then can the now iconic village of Wukan in China's southern Guangdong province raise a nation on principles of free speech, transparent governance and democracy?

That is the hope - for the Wukan villagers whose protests against the wholesale theft of their land by corrupt local officials made international headlines over the holiday season and for the growing mass of Chinese netizens who have taken up their cause in cyberspace.

Some overly exuberant analysts see a possible Chinese Spring in the making, mirroring the political upheaval that has rocked the Arab world over the past year. But don't count on it.

The Wukan uprising, inspirational as it may have been, has now been quieted by the savvy Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief in Guangdong, Wang Yang, who is exploiting the crisis to advance his own political ambition to secure a seat on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee during the leadership shuffle later this year at the 18th party congress.

For years, top Guangdong officials ignored complaints about land grabs in Wukan - a coastal fishing village of about 13,000 residents located 120 kilometers east of Hong Kong - but this time the 56-year-old Wang saw an opportunity to burnish his reputation as a peacemaker who listens and responds to the people he serves (or rules).

By approving an investigation into illegal land sales in the village and sacking the two local officials believed to have sanctioned and profited from these sales, Wang has made a deft political move that can only help him in his rivalry with another rising star in the party, Bo Xilai, 62, the party secretary in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing.

In contrast to Wang, Bo, who also aspires to win a coveted place on the standing committee, is noted for his zeal for the revolutionary rhetoric of Mao Zedong and for his hard-line approach to dissent and law enforcement.

Come this autumn, when the 18th party congress convenes in Beijing to choose a fifth generation of Chinese leaders, we will see whether Bo's hard line or Wang's softer style proves more popular. The congress is widely expected to name current Vice President Xi Jinping as President Hu Jintao's successor, while Vice Premier Li Keqiang will most likely take over from Premier Wen Jiabao.

But the battle for seats on the nine-person Politburo Standing Committee is still on, with both Wang and Bo jockeying for a place around a table reserved for China's most powerful men. It would be ironic if the near-revolution staged against party leaders in a village in his province were to help Wang - whose loyalty is first and foremost to the one-party rule that is the foundation of his power - outpoint his Chongqing rival to enter the rarefied realm of the standing committee.

Bo has his revival of Mao's revolutionary spirit and his ruthless crackdown on crime and corruption to boast about - even if lawyers and human-rights activists who dared to defend the accused in that crackdown were also targeted.

Wang's bragging rights come from presiding over China's most prosperous province - and now also from successfully defusing the potentially destabilizing crisis in Wukan. As land grabs and corrupt local officials have become an unfortunate, nationwide staple of Chinese capitalism, current politburo members undoubtedly took note of Wang's triumph of appeasement in Wukan, where villagers whose rioting had chased local officials out of town just a few weeks ago now offer praise and thanks to provincial leaders for their intervention.

A hardline response would only have exacerbated the long-boiling frustration and the violence that eventually broke out in Wukan. Wang's softer line has set a new and refreshingly liberal-minded tone in Guangdong, although it remains to be seen whether the injustices inflicted on Wukan will be fully rectified.

That change in tone has been a long time coming - for Wukan, for Guangdong and for China. The villagers' complaints and petitions about illegal land seizures and corrupt local officials go back at least 20 years. Indeed, the two sacked officials - Xue Chang, the party secretary for the city of Lufeng, in which Wukan is located, and village chief Chen Shunyi - had both held their posts for 40 years.

Xue and Chen are now under investigation for corruption, but it took four decades to bring them down. And, surely, they were not acting alone. The entire local political structure is rotten - in Wukan and elsewhere - and requires major house-cleaning and reform.

As villagers tell the story, local officials started selling off their collectively owned land to developers after Xue launched the Wukan Port Development Company in the early 1990s and appointed himself the company's general manager. Villagers say the company paid each of them a mere 550 yuan (US$87) for their land, which was then used to build roads and housing estates bringing huge profits.

Finally, last September, the people of Wukan had had enough. Following yet another illegal sell-off, thousands of residents took to the streets in protest, storming a police station, an industrial park and the local Communist Party offices in Lufeng. To avoid the wrath of the mob, party officials were forced to flee the scene.

Rattled authorities later agreed to enter into negotiations with 13 representatives democratically elected by villagers, but before those talks could bear fruit, several of the representatives were arrested. One them, 42-year-old Xue Jinbo, died last month in police custody.

Police said Xue died of a sudden heart attack after confessing to damaging property and disrupting public services in Wukan, but his family and friends insisted he was a victim of police brutality.

When police refused to release Xue's body for the funeral service planned by his family, villagers once again threatened to riot. That's when, with everyone expecting another iron-fisted crackdown, Wang's deputy, Zhu Mingguo, stepped in with a peace offering.

Zhu's December 21 meeting with village representatives in Lufeng resulted in the dismissal of the two long-standing officials, the release of Xue's body for a second autopsy, an investigation into the land seizures and a promise to make public all of the village's financial records.

The protests stopped immediately as village elders showered praise on provincial authorities. Finally, somebody had listened to them.

Since the Wukan breakthrough, Wang has been busy making political capital out of his success. For example, addressing a meeting of the Guangdong party congress this week, Wang promised to use the "Wukan approach" to clean up village politics throughout the province.

"Zhu Mingguo leading a delegation into Wukan village was not only meant to solve problems in the village," Wang was reported as saying, "but also to set a reference standard to reform village governance across Guangdong."

It is a pledge that other party leaders may be wise to heed. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 50 million farmers had their land seized last year, and the number is increasing at a rate of three million farmers per year.

That's a lot of potential Wukans on the horizon for China.

Kent Ewing is a Hong Kong-based teacher and writer. He can be reached at kewing56@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter: @KentEwing1

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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烏坎事件的根源:土地問題 ----- J. Muldavin


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China's Shaky Economic Foundation

Joshua Muldavin


Two weeks ago peasants in Wukan, a fishing village in the prosperous southern Chinese province of Guangdong, took over their village, throwing out local leaders. Because of long unanswered grievances, they risked their lives, barricading roads into the village and facing down the police. Their central concern was the sale of collectively owned village land to property developers, which has impoverished most residents while enriching their leaders.

As the Wukan protests evolved into an international media event, a provincial party official, under pressure from Beijing, stepped in and swiftly negotiated a truce acceptable to the villagers. This week Prime Minister Wen Jiabao asserted that “China can no longer sacrifice farmers’ land rights for the sake of reducing the cost of urbanization and industrialization.”

Once again China’s leadership has succeeded in the complex task of managing social unrest. The eye of the world is now shifting away.

This is a serious mistake. Like China’s leadership, the world should continue to pay close attention to Wukan and to the tens of thousands of incidents of rural unrest that occur each year in China, the vast majority resulting from land grabs. Why? Because what happens to China’s peasants is crucial to our collective future.

China’s rural population is at the bottom of the global commodity chains of both Chinese and transnational corporations. Unhindered by regulations, these companies utilize China’s land and rural labor for the environmentally and socially unsustainable production of goods consumed the world over. While consumers everywhere benefit from inexpensive products and corporate profits, the real costs are borne by China’s most vulnerable.

The Wukan incident reveals the shaky foundation of China’s rise to economic super power: it is built upon an unresolved land struggle with hundreds of millions of lives in the balance. Anything that negatively alters the quality of life of China’s rural majority has the potential to impact the already fragile global economy, sending ripples across the world.

As I have seen first-hand during nearly 30 years of research in rural China, land grabs have been central to China’s economic “miracle.” Local governments take over land for real estate development, industrial expansion, roads, dams and power plants.

Having government and party connections to get a hold of prime real estate in urban cores and suburban fringes has enabled massive fortunes in property development. Eight out of China’s top 10 billionaires made their fortunes through land grabs.

Similar land grabs have occurred in China’s rural hinterlands where there is little oversight by the central government. Of the 1.1 million hectares taken away in 2011, according to China’s State Council, 700,000 were transferred illegally. The result is the complete loss of land for approximately 75 million peasants, who join the over 200 million rural residents migrating around China daily in search of work.

Land loss leaves many rural families -- still the majority of China’s population -- without access to enough land to produce their food. Wukan’s villagers not only saw 400 hectares of shared land sold to a property developer, but their common fishing grounds were sold off as well to a large seafood company. This severely reduced many villagers’ basic subsistence. Their rising anger and desperation is seen in other rural areas nationwide.

Land grabs are part and parcel of growing social inequality in China. Despite increasingly strong populist rhetoric from the government, along with significant rural investment to counter rising discontent, China today rivals the most unequal countries in the world. The 400 million Chinese at the bottom face continual threats to their livelihoods through land loss.

Beijing’s success in quelling daily unrest around the country, mainly through the use of local officials as scapegoats, fails to address the fundamental problem: a development path built on an eroding foundation of unjust land grabs, environmental destruction, social polarization and the resulting vulnerability of the country’s poorest and most marginal people. Until these structural issues are addressed, the Wukan incident will only be a harbinger of things to come.

Joshua Muldavin is professor of human geography at Sarah Lawrence College.


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烏坎事件:會演變成北京事件嗎? - M. Pei



Occupy Beijing?

Minxin Pei, 12/30/11

Rapid economic growth hasn’t been able to stem the rising tide of discontent in China. Even as the economy has soared, the number of protests has jumped. So what’s really wrong?

The outbreak of spontaneous mass protest against corruption and abuse of power in China is showing no signs of abating. In the latest instance, which received sustained Western press coverage, thousands of villagers in Wukan, a farming community in Guangdong Province, “occupied” their village for nearly two weeks before successfully extracting important concessions from the provincial government, which had to dispatch a deputy party secretary to negotiate with the villagers. The specific trigger for this unusually large mass protest is a common scourge plaguing Chinese farmers: the theft of their land by local officials. Although farmers in China have, nominally at least, 30-year leases on their state-owned land, local officials often sell leases, for a huge profit, to commercial developers without bothering to consult the affected farmers. The lion’s share of proceeds from such illegal transactions go into the coffers of local governments and the pockets of corrupt officials, with the farmers, now landless and without income, receiving a pittance.

The villagers in Wukan are among millions of the victims of this widespread practice in China. Illegal land seizures (along with forced evictions in urban areas) have become the most common cause of collective protests and riots in China these days. Estimates by Chinese scholars suggest they account for roughly 60 percent of the so-called “mass incidents” recorded by Chinese authorities. Unlike the villagers in Wukan, who have won a promise from senior Guangdong officials to review the illicit land deals, the majority of farmers whose land was stolen have received little help from the government.

Because of the size, duration, and outcome of the protest in Wukan, analysts of Chinese politics are tempted to view this incident as a harbinger of things to come. Perhaps this incident will encourage aggrieved farmers elsewhere to organize and protest in a similar fashion? Perhaps the soft handling of Wukan’s protest suggests the Communist Party will behave differently in responding to social unrest?

One shouldn’t read too much into one incident. The most probable reason for the peaceful settlement of this incident had to do with succession politics in Beijing, as the party secretary in Guangdong, a hot contender for a seat on the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, could have endangered his own chances had the protest ended in a bloodbath. Unusual political circumstances forced local officials to behave with rare prudence and restraint. Nevertheless, the Wukan incident should worry Chinese Communist Party leaders.

In the short term, China is most likely entering another period of high social unrest. Indeed, the most senior party leader in charge of domestic security recently sounded a dark warning about rising social instability. The specific cause he cited was the expected economic slowdown in China, which faces falling export demands, a deteriorating real estate market, and mounting bad loans in the financial system. While it’s true that poor economic performance will dent the legitimacy of the party and rising unemployment will swell the ranks of the disaffected, the causes of social protest in China aren’t cyclical, but structural. In other words, ordinary Chinese citizens revolt against local authorities not because of temporary economic hardships, but because of systemic and pervasive abuse of power and petty despotism perpetrated by the agents of the one-party state.

To see why this is the case, one simply needs to plot the growth of the Chinese economy alongside the increase of reported mass protest incidents. The number of mass protest rises irrespective of China’s growth performance. In fact, the rate of growth in mass protest exceeds the rate of China’s GDP growth. In 1993, the authorities reported 8,709 such incidents. In 2005, 87,000 such incidents were reported. Perhaps in denial of this grim reality, Beijing has since then simply stopped releasing official data. However, Chinese sociologists estimate that the number of mass incidents reached 180,000 last year. What’s notable about this set of numbers is that, if anything, economic growth fuels social discontent in China. The size of the Chinese economy has more than doubled in the last decade. The number of mass incidents rose roughly four times in the same period.

This counter-intuitive observation brings us to another soul-searching question: why is economic growth making an increasing number of ordinary Chinese people upset? Three answers come to mind.

First, the benefits of economic growth in China aren’t being equitably shared, with the economic and political elites gaining the most. As in the West, inequality in China has risen dramatically in the last twenty years. Today, income disparity in China is approaching Latin American levels. More important, because political connections and corruption are critical to economic success in China’s crony-capitalist autocracy, most ordinary people view wealth amassed by the elites as illegitimate. This creates a social environment in which resentment against the rich and the powerful can readily find expression in protests and riots.

Second, China’s economic growth, impressive in number, is actually low in quality. Expansion of the economy is achieved by undercutting social services (such as healthcare, poverty reduction, and education) and neglecting the environment. Deteriorating social services can stoke discontent among ordinary people, who rely on them much more than the elites. Worse still, environmental degradation, a direct result of Beijing’s blind focus on GDP growth, has now become a major cause of social protest. The Ministry of Environmental Protection admits publicly that mass incidents triggered by environmental pollution have been growing at double-digit each year (although it has withheld the actual numbers).

Third, social protest is an inevitable response by ordinary people to systemic corruption, repression and petty despotism that defines a one-party regime. In such a system, the agents of the regime wield enormous power but are subject to little accountability. Their use of coercion and violence against defenseless citizens is routine and habitual. In the case of the Wukan protest, the spark that ignited the mass incident was the death of a representative sent by the villagers to negotiate with local authorities. He was believed to have been tortured by the police. Because this system produces innocent victims daily, it should at least expect its victims to rise up in self-defense.

It’s therefore clear that mass social protest has become a permanent feature of the Chinese political system. Although such protest, by itself, won’t dethrone the Communist Party, it does weaken the party’s rule in subtle ways. Trying to maintain control over a restive population is forcing the party to expend ever-more resources on domestic security. Letting such routine protest – amplified by the Internet and microblogs – occur makes the party look weak and incompetent. Having tens of millions of disgruntled citizens also means that potential opposition movement can find political allies among China’s down-trodden masses. Worst of all, in a political crisis, these enemies of the regime could all rise in revolt spontaneously.

Perhaps Chinese domestic security officials should be even more worried. Today it’s Wukan. Could Beijing be next?


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烏坎事件:另一個角度 - I. Johnson


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Do China’s Village Protests Help the Regime?

Ian Johnson, 12/23/11

Over the past two weeks, the western press has focused on a striking story out of China: a riveting series of protests in Wukan, a fishing village in the country’s prosperous south. The story is depressingly familiar: Corrupt cadres sell off public land and villagers get nothing. Anger builds and protests erupt. Inept local officials negotiate and then turn to violence, in this case encircling the town with police in hopes of starving the population into submission.

According to interviews with villagers, officials had been selling off communal land in Wukan since the early 1990s, with few locals seeing any of the proceeds. Resentment finally boiled over this autumn when the last large plot of land in the village was sold—at a time when rising inflation meant many villagers wanted the land to grow their own crops. They rioted, chased the party leaders out of town, and chose a dozen representatives to negotiate. Their demands were that the sales be investigated and officials removed.

Police then allegedly kidnapped five of these leaders and beat one of them to death, igniting the most recent protests that have captured the outside world’s attention. The other four remain in police custody. Scores of foreign reporters descended on Wukan, providing blanket coverage of the riots and negotiations between the villagers and government leaders. The riots ended Wednesday after the government made some concessions and villagers agreed to go home.

What to make of all this? The overall sense in western reports is that things are spinning out of control in China, that the center can’t hold and the Communist Party can’t manage. We are told that China has tens of thousands of similar protests each year. The exact numbers aren’t clear but official figures show a dramatic increase in “mass incidents” over the past decade from just a few thousand to, by some measures, 80,000. Subconsciously we get the message: protests are a sign of instability, ergo the stability of China under one-party rule is eroding.

And yet to a degree this analysis doesn’t add up. If the government is so worried about protests, then why does it make the statistics available in the first place? In fact, most observers say that the vast majority of these disturbances are handled peacefully—the government sends in an inspection team, money is tossed around (to pay back wages or unpaid pensions, for example) and local officials often arrested. The protests usually end quickly and often without violence once the specific issues are solved. Few of the protests make broader demands.

In the case of Wukan, the government hasn’t made much of an effort to control the news. While major newspapers are not reporting the incidents, one of the country’s most important news magazines has just come out with an in-depth and thoughtful article. More notably, the country’s tightly controlled micro-blogs are filled with analysis of the Wukan protests. This is sometimes portrayed in the foreign press as an area of the media outside the government’s control—in part because it assumed that the “Internet can’t be controlled.” But the Internet is actually very skillfully manipulated in China. Articles or posts that the government does not like are quickly deleted by armies of censors who troll the web and by sophisticated software programs that can block sites or posts containing certain words (like “Wukan”). Although cutting-edge Internet aficionados find creative ways around these hindrances, the vast majority of people in China read an Internet that the government has vetted. Hence, blogs about Wukan aren’t a sign of technology undermining government control; instead they are tolerated, if not blessed, by the government.

The idea is to allow people whom the authorities consider unthreatening to write about the protests and come up with useful analyses that don’t pose a challenge to one-party rule. Thus we have seen a steady stream of level-headed reporting and analysis by people like Yu Jianrong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who specializes in rural unrest. In postings over the past ten days on the most popular microblog, Sina Weibo, Yu has identified the problem as a conflict between officials’ desire for stability at all costs—hence the heavy-handed police presence in Wukan—and locals’ desire to protect their rights. He argues that the emphasis over the past two decades of economic growth has led to an elite (in this case, big real estate developers) that runs roughshod over poorer members in society.

If this sounds like a radical, edgy analysis for China, it isn’t. Yu’s blog has 1.3 million followers. Open discussion of China’s wealth gap and local corruption are standard fare in Chinese academic journals and even in more mainstream media. Such news is harder to discuss in mass publications or on television, but the party has always kept the tightest reins on the media with the biggest audience. So the fact that Wukan isn’t on the front page of national newspapers but is being forthrightly discussed in narrower—though still widely accessible—forums is entirely predictable.

Perhaps this raises the question of why the government allows discussion of these issues at all. China’s technocrats are not fools. They realize that these are serious problems and they want them solved. This is why a growing rights consciousness is not entirely opposed by the party. When I looked at rural unrest in China a decade ago, I was surprised that many farmers found out by watching television news that they were being overtaxed. Aware that local officials were overtaxing locals and causing riots, the authorities in Beijing broadcast new tax codes, making sure that people knew that it was not government policy to tax them to death. Some locals rioted and many others filed class-action lawsuits—but in the end local taxation was reduced (and eventually eliminated entirely). This wasn’t despite central government efforts, but because of them. The result is that rural protests, which were a regular feature of 1990s China, are far less common.

Academics have a term for this: “adaptive authoritarianism.” As Peter L. Lorentzen of the University of California, Berkeley, has written, officials view protests as way to gauge popular discontent. Small-scale protests function as a feedback mechanism for the government of a country without an active civil society or elections. Far from being a harbinger of regime change, Lorentzen argues that, in China at least, they can stabilize the regime.

The most recent developments in Wukan seem to reflect this pattern. After talks between villagers and township authorities went nowhere, the much more powerful provincial government sent in a negotiating team on Wednesday. It was led by an official close to the governor, Wang Yang, who is widely seen as a top candidate to join the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo. This is the small body (the exact size varies but is usually under ten members) that effectively runs China and that will get new members next October. The villagers seem to have reduced their demands and these seem to have been met. Soon after the meeting, the protests were called off.

But while the Wukan protests seem to have been skillfully managed, the government only allows the discussion to go so far. It’s okay to say that local officials are corrupt or that the real estate deal in question was wrong. But it is not acceptable to have protesters link up with each other in a national network. And it is certainly not acceptable to criticize the root cause of Wukan’s problems—China’s lack of checks and balances that allow local officials to rule like warlords for decades before local finally explode and the problems are finally addressed. These deep-structure issues are still taboo.

Although these tactics are working now, their efficacy in the long run is less clear. As Chinese have become wealthier and better educated, they are demanding more control over their lives. In a more mature political system, civil society—the press, courts, non-governmental organizations, and civic associations—could help address situations like a village protest before they require the direct intervention of one of the country’s most powerful politicians.

It’s no coincidence either that the Wukan uprising was spurred by another growing worry in China: the country’s mounting economic challenges. China’s real estate bubble is deflating, inflation remains stubborn, and exports are facing new competition. These can only add to tensions in society, forcing leaders to stick more and more of their fingers in the political system’s holes. But given the élan of China’s millennia-old bureaucracy, the system itself does not seem at risk, at least in the absence of some far larger precipitating event. In the meantime, the lessons of Wukan may be that the country’s leaders can leap from wall to wall, plugging leaks and keeping the system working far longer than westerners can imagine.


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我在本欄(烏坎事件:中共必須面對問題根源)中轉貼了兩篇評論:After WukanCommunist party tested by village protests,請參考。


1.     政治實務


2.     社會現實


3.     人民自主性




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後烏坎村的中國 - J. N. Deal



After Wukan

Jacqueline N. Deal, 12/19/11

The ongoing standoff between Chinese police and the defiant residents of Wukan, a 20,000-person village about 200 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong, is nothing short of extraordinary. Reports of the arrival of a "China Spring" are premature, but the comparison is closer than anyone would have predicted before last week. Long after authorities from Beijing re-establish control, Wukan's achievement will affect China's internal security policy, succession dynamics in the run-up to the 2012 leadership handover, and even China's foreign policy.

Here is what seems to have happened: Since the 1990s, Wukan authorities have sold off the town's land to developers and enriched themselves with the proceeds. Villagers, who rely on fishing for their livelihood, tolerated the loss of property until the recent uptick in inflation made food more expensive and land more dear. In September, locals learned of the sale of another large plot, including a grave site, when developers began construction. (Popular estimates of the deal's value exceed $150 million; divided among residents, this would amount to a payout of about four times the average annual income.) Villagers rioted, and Wukan's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary, its leader for the last three decades, fled. The uprising was quelled when remaining local officials authorized the villagers to select 13 representatives for negotiations. Fast forward to last Friday. Unmarked (read: government) vans arrived in Wukan, and the men who jumped out arrested five of the 13 representatives, at least one of whom died in captivity. On Sunday, villagers moved fallen trees across a highway to block the entrance of an approaching 1,000-man riot squad. After unleashing tear gas and water cannons, the squad retreated, erecting a steel barrier around the town. Now all of the local party officials have fled, and with security forces outside Wukan preventing the flow of food and water into the town, the standoff continues.

Villagers' appeals to the central party have expanded from restitution and punishment of corrupt officials to compensation for police brutality. Lead protester Lin Zulian, an army veteran, is rumored to have ties in Beijing, and has been quoted as holding out hope that authorities there will intercede to resolve the situation. Reporters from Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, have now entered the village. While Wukan residents with access to the Chinese microblogging website Weibo were able to communicate with the outside world through last Thursday, a complete blackout has been implemented in advance of Xinhua's coverage, paving the way for an authorized storyline to emerge. Watch for the central party to make gestures to appease the protesters, imprisoning the most egregiously corrupt local officials and providing some compensation for seized land. This will succeed in quieting down Wukan, but history is likely to remember the impact of what happened there on Chinese domestic security practices, jockeying for leadership positions, and even foreign affairs.

The consequences: Those responsible for maintaining social stability in China will now have to invest even more in local informants to stay abreast of nascent unrest. Already, estimates based on leaks from provincial security bureaus put the number of domestic spies in China at about 39 million, or three percent of the population. (By comparison, in East Germany under the Stasi, informants made up 2.5 percent of the population.) The Wukan precedent is also likely to inspire efforts to make sure that a town cannot survive for long without access to external supplies. Food, water, and medicine stocks in localities could now be regulated.

Even more troubling for the central government, the grievances of Wukan-ites are representative of a broader problem in China. CCP members readily confess that corruption is rampant. According to the former China bureau chief of the Financial Times, a local official who pays 300,000 yuan for a position can expect to pull in five million within a couple years of occupying his or her post. Most of this will be outside the salary attached to the position, make no mistake. Bribes, kickbacks, and the seizure of land for real estate development deals are part of a predatory system whose victims are ordinary Chinese people. It is the general population that suffers when shoddy materials are used in the construction of schools and roads, or even airports, in the case of the new terminal outside Beijing that recently collapsed. The general population is left homeless when they are evicted without compensation, or with payment insufficient to cover the cost of another residence.

These issues are at the forefront of internal party debates on future economic and social policy in the run-up to next year's leadership transition. A rivalry between spokesmen for different approaches has been much reported. The populist, Mao-invoking leader of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, who launched a very public anti-corruption campaign, is said to be vying with Wang Yang, the leader of Guangdong province where Wukan is located, for a seat on the Politburo standing committee.

Whether or not reports of lead protester Lin Zulian's ties in Beijing are accurate, the Wukan incident is likely to foment divisions among party elites, as factions argue over who was responsible and how the situation should have been handled. The fact that news of the uprising reached both domestic and foreign audiences despite the suppression efforts of China's propaganda authorities indicates the limits of the country's vast censorship apparatus. Dissension within its ranks may even have played a role.

Finally, amidst the climate of debate and recrimination in Beijing, some will highlight the coincidence of the Wukan uprising with the "Occupy" movement in the United States. Despite the fact that Wukan residents clearly acted on their own initiative, in response to local grievances, their achievement is likely to heighten the already acute sensitivity of China's political leaders to evidence of foreign efforts to sow instability in the country. Rather than scapegoat Washington, however, China's leaders would do well to remember that what happened in Wukan was their taste of the Arab Spring, not evidence of external meddling in China's affairs.

Jacqueline N. Deal is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and president of the Long Term Strategy Group, a defense research firm.


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烏坎事件和中共統治路線 - R. Jacob



Communist party tested by village protests

Rahul Jacob, 12/18/11

Among the weekend demonstrations in the Chinese village of Wukan was one that featured a group of teenagers marching through an abandoned police station calling for free elections, from the local to the national level.

That gesture by school students was emblematic. A protest that began in late September with villagers demanding an investigation into the sale of communal land by corrupt local party officials to a well-connected businessman has snowballed in a once obscure fishing village of less than 15,000 people on the southern tip of China. This is no longer just a land dispute. People are now questioning the governance of the Communist party.

The biggest potential loser from that shift is Wang Yang, the provincial Communist party secretary and one of the highest profile members of a new generation of leaders now in the ascendant in China.

Importantly, Mr Wang is also at the centre of a debate over how the party should respond to the growing issue of social unrest. He is viewed as a liberal in the party, and has been locked in competition with Bo Xilai, the conservative party boss of Chongqing, who favours tough crackdowns on protests and organised crime, and the chanting of Maoist songs dating back to the Cultural Revolution. Since both are vying for prominent positions ahead of the changes in China’s Politburo next year, this is more than just a debate between provincial leaders.

As the contest has intensified, Mr Wang has raised the volume of his reformist rhetoric and has promoted Guangdong, China’s export hub and the country’s wealthiest province, as a laboratory of political and economic change.

Four weeks ago he gave, by Communist standards, a table-thumping speech in which he said the government must make it easier for people to set up non-governmental organisations and transfer more functions to such advocacy groups. (NGOs have long been viewed with suspicion in China because the Communist party has been unwilling to allow any kind of alternative power base.)

In the speech, Mr Wang called reform “the soul of Guangdong”. “A growing problem is that some of us have lost that daring spirit,” he added.

Mr Wang, who started his career as a worker in a food processing factory, appears to genuinely believe that a lighter touch is a better way to deal with China’s more critical younger generation. Last year, he responded to a series of wildcat strikes at factories in the province by allowing workers to protest without police rounding up the leaders as often happens elsewhere in China. Workers got raises of 20 per cent or more.

But the challenge in Wukan is a much more complicated one. Han Dongfang, who heads the China Labour Bulletin, an advocacy group, says that whereas last year’s breakthrough in managing labour protests involved getting management and workers across the table, negotiating with villagers aggrieved about land-grabbing inevitably requires punishing local party officials and reforming the party. “You don’t open the box. There is too much dirt in it. That is the political reality,” he says.

Wukan’s villagers, having tasted the freedom to protest in late November when nearly 5,000 did so in a peaceful march to the nearby city government offices, want more. They have demanded the dismissal of allegedly corrupt village officials who have ruled Wukan for decades.

Mr Wang has the complicated task of managing the expectations he raised while trying to showcase Guangdong as a laboratory for incremental political change. The escalation of events in Wukan, especially after the death in police custody of villager Xue Jinbo, whose family alleges was beaten to death, has undermined Mr Wang’s standing among the liberals in the party, because he has, inexplicably, not intervened. Chang Ping, a respected Guangzhou journalist, says that the police brutality in Wukan suggests that Mr Bo and Mr Wang are indistinguishable.

Instead of the usual murky guessing game of Chinese politics, Wukan has had the clarity of a moral play. Grandmothers and children along with thousands of other villagers have demonstrated daily for justice against corrupt party officials and for the return of Xue’s body so his funeral can go ahead.

The Communist party leadership, often lauded for the speed with which it builds airports and highways, has had no coherent response. Worse, the local government last week trotted out the four detained leaders of the protests to implausibly recant on video while police tried to starve the village into submission.

The question now is whether Mr Wang will break his silence. If he does, and finds a way to prove himself a genuine reformer, then his debate with Bo Xilai could find new life. If he doesn’t, his silence will suggest what many have long suspected: that the Chinese Communist party’s factions act as one when its authority is questioned.


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烏坎村事件落幕 -- S. L. Wee



China village ends protests after government compromise

Sui-Lee Wee, 12/21/11

WUKAN, China (Reuters) - Organizers of a Chinese village protest that tested the ruling Communist Party for more than a week decided on Wednesday to end their action after senior officials offered concessions over a land dispute and suspicious death in custody.

Residents of Wukan, in southern Guangdong province had warded off police and held protests over the death of activist Xue Jinbo, whose family rejects the government's position that he died of natural causes, and against the seizure of farmland for development.

But following conciliatory talks with provincial officials, village representatives urged the residents to pull down protest banners and go back to their normal lives -- provided the government keeps to its word.

"Because this matter has been achieved, we won't persist in making noise," village organizer, Yang Semao, told an assembly hall of village representatives and reporters, referring to the protests. He said protest banners would be taken down.

"They've agreed to our initial requests," Yang told Reuters. But he added a caveat: "If the government doesn't meet its commitments, we'll protest again."

Senior officials negotiating with the villagers agreed to release three men detained over protests in September, when a government office was trashed, and to re-examine the cause of Xue's death, a village organizer said earlier.

They and fellow villagers believe he was subjected to abuse that left injuries, including welts, on his body. But the government said an autopsy showed he died of heart problems. Xue was detained over the land protests that broke out in September.

Under a hot afternoon sun, about a thousand villagers gathered to hear another organizer, Liu Zuluan, explain the concessions from the government, which they greeted with loud clapping.

Although the Wukan rebellion was limited to one village, it has attracted widespread attention as a humbling rebuff to the ruling Communist Party, which values stability above all else.


Wang Yang, the Communist Party chief of Guangdong, obliquely acknowledged that the villagers had cause to complain, in comments published on Wednesday in the Southern Daily, the official province newspaper.

"There was something accidental about the Wukan incident, but also something inevitable," Wang said, according to the report.

"This is the outcome of conflicts that accumulated over a long time in the course of economic and social development," said Wang, who is seen by many analysts as nursing hopes of a spot in China's next central leadership.

Guangdong is a prosperous part of China. But the wrenching shifts of urbanisation and industrialization have fanned discontent among increasingly assertive citizens, who often blame local officials for corruption and abuses.

On Wednesday morning, about 300 villagers had lined the sides of a road into the village, preparing to welcome, Zhu Mingguo, the main official negotiating with them.

A man holding a Chinese flag on a pole told the villagers over loudspeaker: "Everyone welcome the Communist Party's work team." Villagers unfurled a banner welcoming officials to come and help "solve the Wukan matter."

The Southern Daily also explained the concessions that Zhu has offered to the villagers, including foreswearing punishment of rioters who "show sincerity in working with the government to solve the problems."

Zhu also promised an impartial autopsy for the late Xue, and "transparent" disclosure in the media of how the villagers' grievances are addressed.

Underscoring government fears of unrest, in a separate protest on Tuesday in Haimen, a town further east up the coast from Wukan, residents demonstrated in front of government offices and blocked a highway over plans to build a power plant.

Pictures on a Chinese microblogging site, Sina's "Weibo" service, which could not be independently verified by Reuters, showed hundreds of people gathered in front of the offices as riot police kept watch.

(Writing and additional reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)


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