[For more discussion on China's economic and political development, click HERE.]
The following petition, organised by the Hong Kong-based coalition Left21, explains the background to, and demands of, the rebellion by the people of Wukan.
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December 15, 2011 -- China Labour Net/Left21 -- On November 21, 1927, under the leadership of Peng Pai,
pioneer of the Chinese communist revolution as well as a committed
socialist, the country’s first rural Soviet administration was
established in area of Hailufeng, Guangdong province. Thus began the
first chapter of the communist movement in China.
On November 21, 2011, less than a few kilometres away from the
founding site, at Wukan village (part of Lufeng city in eastern
Guangdong province), a few thousand villagers took to the street.
Holding up signs that read "Down with dictatorship", "Curb corruption", "Down with government-business collusion" and "Return land to the
people", villagers marched to the government headquarters at Lufeng city
to protest against officials’ illegal land seizures and sales. Their
demands were clear: to reclaim the land sold without the consent of the
people, to release public accounts concerning the some 400 hectares of
land seized and sold since 1978, to launch investigations into
fraudulent elections and to enforce the Organic Law of Village
Committees to hold fair and open elections. The demonstration ended
peacefully after the acting mayor received the villagers’ petition.
Illegal land sales prompt villagers’ mobilisation
Since the early 1990s, the villagers of Wukan had launched petitions at
the local governments of Lufeng, Shanwei, and Guangdong province, only in vain. A proper reply from officials was never made. Without
democratic elections, the secretary of the Communist Party's local
chapter, Xue Chang, has stayed in power for 41 years. Abusing its
position as the so-called representative of Wukan, the village committee
has sold and leased hundreds of hectares of land without consulting the
villagers, and yet in the past few decades, villagers have received
less than 500 yuan in compensation.
The ongoing demonstrations were prompted by allegations that Hong
Kong-based businessperson Chen Wenqing, who is originally from Wukan, had
colluded with the village committee to strike a private land-sale deal
with luxury home developer Country Garden, thereby gaining the 700
million yuan that was supposed to be paid to the
villagers. As the representative of Guangdong province and Shanwei city
in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative
Conference, the honorary president of the Confederacy of Hong Kong
Shanwei Clansmen Ltd, as well as owner of various hotels and development
companies in the mainland, Chen holds numerous official positions both
in the mainland and Hong Kong. In recent months, as Country Garden began
its construction work, villagers could no longer put up with the
On September 22, 2011, the villagers of Wukan rose up and launched
a mass protest at the municipal government, after which officials
promised to investigate the problem. The village committee
leadership that was under suspicion immediately fled the area, leaving
the village without an administration.
To prevent a state of anarchy and to strengthen the mobilisation of
the people, villagers filled the leadership vacuum by democratically
electing 13 representatives and setting up a Provisional Board of
Representatives to conduct village affairs. In mid-October, villagers
also established a Women’s Representatives Federation to support the
ongoing struggle. At the same time, the Lufeng municipal government sent
out a team to investigate the situation.
However, on November 1, the
government announced that it would relieve party
secretary Xue Chang and vice party secretary Chen Shunyi of their duites, and agree to
Chen’s resignation from the village committee leadership. The municipal government did not implement democratic elections after that,
but appointed the vice-mayor of Donghai township as the new party
secretary of Wukan. The problems of land and official corruption raised
by the villagers were not properly investigated and addressed. After
two months of unresponsiveness and inaction on the government’s part,
the villagers had no choice but to launch a peaceful protest on November 21.
Villagers call general strike; elected representative dies
After the march on November 21, on December 3, the municipal government
unilaterally announced to the press that the issues had already been
solved, and that the Wukan "incident" had come to an end. Outraged, more than
13,000 villagers launched a general strike from December 4 and held
assemblies and marches. On December 5, villagers protested against the arrival
of the undemocratically imposed party secretary.
On December 9, police arrested village representatives Zhuang
Liehong, Xue Jinbo, Zhang Jiancheng, Hong Ruichao and Ceng Zhaoliang on
criminal charges. Two days later, on the night of December 11, the Lufeng
municipal government suddenly announced that the democratically elected
representative of Wukan village and vice-president of the Provisional
Board of Representatives, Xue Jinbo, had died of a heart attack.
Officials stated that external causes of death had been ruled out. This
directly contradicts with the recording of Xue and his daughter that has
been circulated on the internet. According to Xue’s daughter, Xue’s
entire body was bruised, his hands swollen, his chin and nose caked with
blood: clear signs of having been tortured to death.
Police seal off village in siege
In response to Xue’s death, on December 12 and 13, the villagers of Wukan
organised an assembly to remember him and to voice their anger.
They swore to continue the struggle to remove corrupt officials.
Currently, roads into Wukan have been sealed off by thousands of
security personnel, effectively cutting off Wukan from outside contact
and even stopping the village’s water and food supplies. As a result,
food is becoming increasingly scarce in the village. Earlier, in attempt
to enter the village and arrest more democratically elected
representatives, police threw gas canisters at protesters and
demolished the homemade roadblocks that the villagers had set up to
prevent police from besieging the village.
Faced with continued demonstrations, the municipal government has
only acknowledged that it would hold a "double designations", that is,
to have the village committee’s party members attend question
sessions at a designated place for a designated duration. Officials also
announced the suspension of the two projects coordinated by former
party secretary Xue Chang and Hong Kong-based businessperson Chen Wenqing.
Same problem: capitalism
While the villagers of Wukan are fighting a difficult battle, at the
same time, teachers in Lufeng city also launched their own
demonstrations on December 11 to demand a pay rise. Like the 1922 agrarian
movement in Hailufeng, the struggles of the Wukan villagers as well as
their political and economic demands have a pioneering significance in
the history of Chinese workers' and peasants’ fight for democracy. The
Hailufeng peasants’ movement in the 1920s, the workers’ strikes in
Hong Kong as well as Shanghai all echo each other in highlighting the
economic and political crises that plagued global capitalism and
Today, more than 80 years later, the workers' and peasants' movements in
Hailufeng similarly echo the recent labour strikes in Shenzhen,
Dongguan, Shanghai and so on. They all shed light on the current
political and economic crisis in which wealth and power in society
are concentrated in the hands of a few.
"Down with corruption, reclaim our land" is the voice of 1 billion
Chinese people. It is also the voice of the millions of Hong Kong
people who live under the oppression of property hegemony. The
revolutionary tradition that began in Hailufeng has been revived once
again. While thousands of police surrounding the village, the
government declares the people’s democratically formed
organisation illegal, refuses to tell the truth regarding Xue Jinbo’s
death, arrests and jails village representatives and only investigates
corruption on the village level.
It is clear that the villagers of
Wukan have reached the most difficult and yet critical point of their
long and hard-fought struggle.
At this fateful hour, we call on those who push for progress and
freedom around the world. We call on the people of China and Hong Kong
to give their full support to Wukan’s fight for democracy. On December 17, we
in Hong Kong will protest!
We demand that the central government:
1. Immediately stop the sealing off of Wukan, and release the arrested village representatives;
2. Return Xue Jinbo’s body and release the details and truth behind
Xue’s death; punish the security personnel in charge of extracting
confessions by torturing Xue and make a formal apology and grant compensation
to Xue’s family;
3. Recognise Wukan’s democratically elected
Provisional Board of Representatives, allow representatives to
participate in investigations and handle the matter in an open, fair
and just manner;
4. Reclaim the sold land and return it to the villagers of Wukan;
5. Address the demands of the villagers to curb corruption and implement democratic elections;
6. Investigate land seizures in the country ad stop the privatisation of land.
December 15, 2011
打倒貪官 還我土地 — 香港行動 全球呼籲：支持陸豐烏坎村民的民主鬥爭