‘A Single Spark Starts a Prarie Fire’

This is a famous quotation by Mao Tse-Tung made, I believe, during the national revolution culminating in 1949.

But it can also apply to the people of Wakum.  If anyone can show the road towards democracy (or participary representation) in China, it would be the people of this village who have waged weeks of protests against their local government for selling off collectively-owned land in secret real-estate deals.

The promise of Wakum to spread its protest to nearby villages caught the attention of provincial officials.

According to the New York Times:

The meeting was the first with province-level officials, and it contrasted sharply with the denunciations and threats of arrest that have defined the official response to the protests since the standoff began.

The negotiations were led by the deputy chief of the provincial Communist Party committee, Zhu Mingguo, and the party secretary of the administrative region of Shanwei, Zheng Yanxiong. Mr. Zhu is a top lieutenant to the provincial party secretary, Wang Yang, one of China’s most prominent political leaders and an unspoken candidate for a spot on China’s ruling body, the standing committee of the Politburo, when membership in the body, which now has nine seats, turns over next year.

What’s at stake?

It seems apparent that the Chinese leadership is listening to and evaluating grass-roots demands for the rule-of-law and some form of democracy.  After local officials were chased out of the area by protesters,  the provincial government felt the need to take over.  Mr. Wang Yang’s ability to solve the local problem would either affirm his candidacy for top leadership in the Politburo or doom his changes forever.

Adding to the stakes was the death of Xue Jinbo, one of 12 representives chosen by villagers to negotiate a settlement to the land deal with local officials:

The Lufeng police said that Mr. Xue and the four others were arrested and charged with protest-related crimes, but that Mr. Xue later died of a heart attack. A report by the state-run Xinhua news service said Mr. Xue had become ill after two days of interrogation in which he admitted to his crimes.

Higher authorities arrested village officials in an attempt to diffuse the situation:

Outside authorities have responded by detaining two Wukan officials — the village Communist Party secretary, Xue Chang, and the head of the village administrative committee, Chun Shunyi — for interrogation by the party’s disciplinary officials. The action is tantamount to arrest.

Notice the differences with which human rights advocates in Beijing are treated and how the situation unfolding as described above is dealt with.

The protest in Wakum brought out thousands and spread to nearby provincial areas.  The Communist Party of China (CPC) is more than aware of official corruption at the village level and local protests against it. It will move to protect its legitimacy by bringing in higher officials with more experience an finesse.  At the same time, it will weigh the ability of provincial officials to solve these supposedly ‘local conflicts’ in assessing their readiness for promotion to higher governance bodies.  Yang may or may not be ready.

I believe that figuring out how to prevent or resolve these local conflicts will develop the model for a more democratic China, not the international obsession with ‘human rights’.

 

 

 

 

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