McClatchy Newspapers’ Tom Lasseter tells the story of a July 2010 uprising in the suburban Beijing village of Raolefu, where angry villagers disputed the shady re-election of a corrupt leader and where a court later sentenced seven of the villagers to prison terms on charges that included conspiracy. Raolefu, he writes, symbolizes the institutionalization of absolute power that may hinder reform as the Communist Party seeks to maintain social stability:
China has permitted village-level elections since the 1980s, and they usually are closely supervised affairs. At the committee building at Raolefu, there was a red banner hanging with the Communist Party slogan “always adhere to the party’s basic line,” and some 100 local officials and staff were on hand. But after the villagers blocked the doors, they were in control. The guardrails buffering the leadership from the public suddenly made them look penned inside.
A man in the crowd shouted, “How much money did Wei Jiandong give you?”
Another turned to one of the police officers guarding the officials and asked, “Don’t you have a guilty conscience?” and used an obscenity.
Locals had been filing petitions in recent years at higher-level government offices, alleging that Wei used his positions to broker illegal real estate deals.
As one of their documents put it: “During the eight years of Party Secretary Wei’s time in office, the land in our village was lost…Most farmers in the village became poorer and poorer.”