Wukan’s Sensitive Legacy
China Media Project discusses the implications of the December Wukan incident, including the sentiment felt within the upper echelons of China’s Communist Party leadership:
A January 27 blog post on Wukan made by lawyer Yuan Yulai (袁裕来) to his blog on the Caixin Media platform was deleted by internet censors. Yuan followed up the same day by posting news of the deletion on Sina Weibo. Including an image file for the post (below), he wrote: “Is there no hope for the Wukan incident? Are leaders now setting the tone? (Why was this deleted? Is this still propaganda policy?)”
Yuan Yulai’s microblog post was also subsequently deleted. But the text-as-image file he posted on Sina Weibo, which we archived, is pasted below. In the file Yuan shares an account of words spoken by an unnamed senior leader at a recent meeting on stability preservation, the mobilization of domestic security forces to combat social unrest:
A certain leader said in an internal address at the CCP Work Conference on Politics, Law and Stability Preservation: Right now there are tens of thousands of mass incidents [in China each year], mostly happening in rural townships and villages and remote regions, the causes being principally economic. These are convenient for us to independently resolve or break up. But if these spread to coastal cities and are transformed into political demands, the result would be unimaginable. Some comrades lack a real sense of the dangers involved, thinking we are over-reacting. It would be better for a clear directive from the central authorities to over-react than to fall short [of what is needed].
. . . The Wukan incident is far from finished. Can challenges to the leadership status of the Chinese Communist Party evade retribution? That is a page we cannot open, that no one dares open.
Residents of Wukan will vote on Wednesday to select members of a committee to supervise the election of village representatives, expected to take place in February, after an investigative team declared previous elections invalid following the protests. The Financial Times reported on Monday that Wukan offers a potential model for democracy in China, and its experiment will likely have a major impact on the political ambitions of Guangdong party chief Wang Yang:
This lengthy process is designed to prevent the monopoly on power enjoyed by the erstwhile village governor, Mr Xue. “The good thing is Wukan people know exactly what they want. They haven’t been lured by people buying votes. They are focusing on the long term,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian.
There is, nevertheless, plenty of scope for things to go wrong as the new representatives will have to deal with difficult issues such as returning land to villagers and an investigation into the death in police custody in December of a popular village leader. This would likely require punishment of party officials. “Nothing has changed. We have to see if the election process will be able to resolve our complaints,” says one of the more impatient leaders of the December protests.
Meanwhile, one well-connected member of the CPPCC advisory body summed up Mr Wang’s risky endeavour in harsh terms: “If the results are not great, his political career could be over.”
See also previous CDT coverage of the Wukan incident and analysis published in its aftermath (in reverse chronological order):