Election Fever in Wukan as Vote Nears

Candidates for election to Wukan’s new village committee gave campaign speeches on Wednesday as they make their final push ahead of Saturday’s historic election, called when an investigation team declared previous elections invalid following violent land grab demonstrations in the village late last year. From BBC News:

Under the midday sun, hundreds of locals listened intently to a series of campaign speeches made by a dozen or so candidates. Every so often, there were bursts of applause.

Among the candidates is Zhang Jiancheng, 26, a farmer’s son. He was bundled into a car by under-cover policemen while eating at a local restaurant in December and held for two weeks.

But he now believes that politics – and not protests – is the best way to proceed.

“I believe that with a democratic system our future will be bright,” he says. “We need to ensure that the elected officials work on behalf of the people.”

In the prelude to this weekend’s vote, villagers went to the polls on February 1 to choose an oversight committee for the election. Reuters reports that the people of Wukan have applied their own innovative touches to their new democratic experience, including secret ballot boxes and the formation of a large village council to check the powers of the village committee, though villagers still speak of residual anxiety after the December showdown with provincial officials and security forces:

Xiong Wei, a Beijing-based lobbyist for grassroots democracy and an electoral adviser in Wukan, was being pursued for questioning by police authorities, sources close to him said, including a senior police officer from the county government of Shanwei who enquired about his whereabouts daily.

On Xiong’s microblogging site, he spoke of fears for his personal safety, having to sleep under a new roof every night, while never going anywhere without an escort of several men.

Hong Ruichao, 28, a former protest leader abducted and jailed by police for nearly two weeks and now seeking office as one of two deputy village chiefs, said he was tailed by a car several days ago to a nearby town.

“We don’t feel safe going out now. Some people are blacklisted,” said Zhuang Liehong, another young village leader.

See also a video report on the upcoming election by NTD: