Here’s a great report on the origins, rise, victory and eventual frustration of the Wukan rebellion of last year, which was reported rather breathlessly at the time as heralding some kind of new democratic dawn, but seems to be stymied by the difficulty in getting the expropriated land back.
The uprising started out under the wonderfully righteously-rebellious name of the ‘Wukan Hot-Blooded Patriotic Youth League’, which was maybe a little too ‘boxer-y’ to fit into the democratisation discourse that dominated media reports at the time. While the big issue of land hasn’t been resolved, the elected representatives have done a reasonable job of cleaning up the way the village operates. And there’s no sign from the article that the rebels have either been punished or corrupted; the two traditional strategies pursued to the higher authorities.
And they’re still chewing away at the land issue. Interestingly, they don’t want to parcel it off between individuals but use it for projects meant to benefit the village as a whole, rather along the lines of the old clan lands system. Wukan also seems to be a Hakka village, which may have something to do with the whole thing. Hakkas always seem to be at the forefront of China’s more radical changes in direction, as a certain Mr Deng could have told you if he were still alive. There’s also a wonderful bit of anarchist mythology about Chen Jionggming, the Hakka warlord of Guangdong, who supposedly had a Hakka close protection corps, themselves radicalised by contact with the Wobblies while building railroads in the US. But now I stray from the topic.
Anyway, given that too much was made of the Wukan rebellion in the first place, there’s a temptation to be over pessimistic now. But there’s no need for that. Wukan seems to function reasonably effectively within its limits and perhaps more importantly it keeps a route open to democratic local self-government that has already been approved by the Provincial authorities, though we don’t yet know whether Hu Chunhua will take the same attitude as Wang Yang. Since Hu is already in the frame as Xi Jinping’s successor it will be interesting to find out.
That aside, the big Wukan rebellion lesson is to form your hot blooded patriotic youth league before the land gets irrevocably flogged off. A lesson learned, perhaps:
Villagers in southern China were locked in a stand-off with authorities Sunday and were demanding democratic polls after a violent clash with thugs linked to a local official over a land transfer.
Just over a week ago, residents of Shangpu in Guangdong province fought with scores of attackers whom they claimed were sent by the village communist party chief and a business tycoon after they protested against a land deal.
This probably won't be resolved until the 'two meetings' ritual is over, so the rebels will be operating under siege conditions for a week or so.