Villagers go to poll for new committee

Updated: 2012-02-02 08:01

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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WUKAN, Guangdong - Residents in the southern village of Wukan - which has made headlines recently for protests regarding illegal land use and corruption of village officials - voted on Wednesday for an independent election committee after provincial authorities declared the election of the former village committee to be invalid.

The independent election committee will supervise upcoming rounds of voting for villagers' representatives and an election for new village leaders.

Eleven villagers who will make up the election committee will not be permitted to run for the upcoming village committee, Xinhua News Agency said.

"The voting this time is to ensure fairness in the coming village committee election," said Lin Zhulian, newly appointed Party head of Wukan village.

Residents are expected to vote for the new village committee on March 1, Lin said.

To date, some 6,200 valid votes have been collected from seven village groups, which are under administration of Wukan village.

About 7,400 residents of a population of 11,000 were qualified for voting by Wednesday.

"We are so excited to participate in the voting. We still have dreams that this time the voting will help result in a real leadership of our village," said Zhang Jianxing, a 28-year-old Wukan resident.

"We need a village committee that can represent the interests of villagers and help the timely handling of our appeals."

The voting venue was set up inside a school in the village, with 35 teachers on hand to help illiterate villagers read instructions and fill out their ballots. Primary school students have also been mobilized to stamp the ballots.

Early on Jan 15, a new Party branch and a work team were set up in the village to prepare for the upcoming re-election of the village committee.

The former village Party branch has been declared invalid by a Guangdong provincial work team, which was appointed by Guangdong Party chief Wang Yang to handle the aftermath of the Wukan issue.

Also, former village Party chief Xue Chang has been removed from his post after he was allegedly found to have embezzled public assets and accepted bribes during the sales of farmland.

Complaints have escalated since September about land use, finances and elections of the village's leaders in Wukan, which is administrated by Lufeng, a county-level city in eastern Guangdong province, prompting local residents to hold sometimes violent demonstrations.

Since December, provincial authorities began to look into the villagers' complaints and an investigation remains under way.

Initial investigation showed that the protestors had legitimate complaints against officials over wrongdoing concerning land use and financial management.

The standoff between villagers and the local government was not defused until Dec 22 when Zhu Mingguo, deputy Party chief of Guangdong, held a direct dialogue with villagers and promised a "fair and open" investigation.

China Daily