Wukan village voters elect representatives
Updated: 2012-02-13 08:12
Turnout reported to exceed 80% as eligible residents cast secret ballot
WUKAN, Guangdong - More than 6,000 villagers of Wukan in South China's Guangdong province, who made headlines with a protest over illegal land use and other issues, voted for deputies on Saturday in the second round of democratic elections for new leadership.
The voting, presided over by an 11-member election committee chosen on Feb 1, lasted from 9 am to 3 pm at a village school.
Yang Semao, director of the election committee, said that 6,466 secret ballots were cast for group leaders and 6,475 were cast for villagers' representatives.
The election was held to select a team of 107 village representatives and seven group leaders.
The election results were announced late on Saturday. The outcome was that the number of village representatives was increased to 109, as two groups each had two candidates with an equal number of votes.
Yang said turnout exceeded 80 percent of the 7,923 villagers who registered to vote and the election results are therefore valid.
However, Saturday's voting failed to elect seven group leaders, as all the candidates got less than 50 percent of each group's votes.
Another election will be held to fill the seats of group leaders.
Wukan has about 12,000 villagers, 8,222 of whom are of legal age and therefore eligible to vote, though not all of them registered to vote.
Those who applied for group leader candidacy were required to get supporting signatures from at least 100 voters, while village representative candidates were required to get at least 50, according to local election procedures.
"This is to make sure the candidates are well-grounded and trusted by the villagers, and to ensure fairness in the upcoming village committee election," said Yang, director of the election committee.
Villager Lin Shuzhen, who is illiterate, asked her 16-year-old son to read the election instructions for her and fill out her ballot.
Volunteers also stood by to help other illiterate villagers fill out ballots.
"The voting process was smooth and orderly," said Lin Zulian, the village's Communist Party of China secretary. "The villagers took an active part in the voting, and they are more familiar with the procedures compared with the previous round of voting for election committee members on Feb 1."
Lin was appointed secretary after last year's protests.
Lin and the election committee will summon the new deputies to meetings to discuss election procedures for the new village committee.
"I hope the deputies who eventually stand out will all be capable people of integrity," said Huang Deping, a villager in his 50s. "I hope they will safeguard our rights and interests and help us manage our land well."
On Sept 21-22 last year, villagers in Wukan, which is administered by the city of Lufeng, began to protest against village authorities over issues related to land use, financing and the election of village officials, with large protests in the village on Nov 21 and 22.
The villagers gathered again on Dec 11 after Xue Jinbo, a man who was suspected of organizing the November demonstrations, died while in police custody.
Officials from a provincial work team in charge of handling the village's unrest conceded that the residents' major demands were reasonable and "some mistakes" had been made by local officials.
They also announced that last February's election of the former village leaders was invalid and new elections were to be organized.
The previous election drew complaints from the villagers, who complained that a list of candidates was never published and that some of the candidates were also election organizers, both of which go against local election laws and regulations.
According to this year's election procedures, the election committee will be dissolved after the new village committee is formed, although the deputies will continue to perform their duties.
Under the new village leadership, the deputies will attend village committee meetings, report the villagers' suggestions and complaints to the village committee and keep the villagers informed of decisions made at the deputies' meetings.