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Wukan: The Whole Story

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image of The China Nonprofit Review

Abstract Beginning on 21 September 2011 in Guangdong Province, the Wukan Incident was, as an incident of a collective nature at the grassroots of Chinese society, in many respects something extremely rare. This can be said of the length of time for which the incident continued; the number of people who took part; the extent to which the incident was organized; the unmistakably clear interest-related and political demands involved; the thoroughly contentious nature of the incident, and its far-reaching impact. The roots of the conflict lie in disputes over collective land belonging to the village, which had already been going on for as long as 20 years, and problems with corruption involving the long-term manipulation of grassroots democratic elections by a group with common political and economic interests presided over by former Village Party Branch Secretary Xue Chang. Following the violent clash on 21 and 22 September, the self-nominated temporary villagers’ representatives formerly put their three main demands to the government: a thorough investigation of the situation pertaining to the sale and purchase of land in Wukan since the Reform and Opening; a thorough investigation into the elections for the Village Committee; transparency apropos of both village affairs and finances. After almost six months of contention between the government and the public, under the leadership of the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee, the government eventually directly acknowledged the demands of the villagers to be ‘reasonable’ and ‘legally legitimate’. Within all of this, the intervention of the Provincial Party Committee’s Task Force on 20 December 2011 was a watershed moment in transforming the Wukan Incident, exchanging contention for dialogue. At present, Wukan is facing both unprecedented and positive opportunities for development. The village is gaining a remarkable amount of political and economic resources, yet at the same time it is facing grave challenges.

Affiliations: 1: Social Management Innovation Research Team, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University


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