Friday, January 20, 2012

China villagers win quick concessions with protest

illagers in Guangdong province who protested against their leader have won unusually speedy official concessions, a resident said Thursday, amid fears of more unrest in China's manufacturing heartland.
Villagers rally in Wukan village in southern China last month after securing concessions from government over land grabs. Residents of another village, Wanggang in Guangdong province, who protested against their leader have won unusually speedy official concessions, a resident said Thursday, amid fears of more unrest in China's manufacturing heartland
The protest erupted Tuesday in Guangdong, which has experienced several bouts of violence, including a rare revolt in Wukan village last month that saw residents drive out local officials and vote in their own leaders.
In the latest protest, around 1,000 people from Wanggang village gathered in front of a government building in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, Tuesday in protest against Li Zhihang, their allegedly corrupt Communist Party secretary.
They waited there until the early hours of Wednesday, when they were told officials would probe their case and would announce the result of the investigation by February 19, Li Zhikai, a local villager, told AFP.
"They will dispatch a working team to our village to investigate property and financial records and have promised we can elect new members of a party committee," he said by phone.
The Guangzhou government was not immediately available for comment.
According to a petition posted online by the villagers, they had tried to petition the government on several occasions but to no avail, and so decided to protest peacefully.
This time, though, the government's response was very quick when compared with the drawn-out revolt in Wukan, where residents faced off with authorities for more than a week before officials gave in to their demands.
Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Guangdong authorities had no choice but to give in to the Wanggang protesters.
Otherwise, they "risk seeing their appeasement of Wukan turning from a 'successful' strategy to defuse social unrest to a failed policy that actually encouraged more protests," he told AFP.
And as the one-year anniversary of online calls for Arab-style protests in China approaches and the country prepares for a major leadership transition in the autumn, authorities are particularly keen to avoid further unrest.
"In the context of the current political jockeying ahead of the leadership transition, Wang Yang (Guangdong chief) must defend the validity of his populist approach," said Bequelin.