Wanggang villagers rally in Guangzhou. Photo by Mimi Lau of SCMP.
Guangdong party chief Wang Yang may have won praise for his light-handed approach in dealing with Wukan, but has he actually opened the floodgates for a wave of land grab protests? Yesterday, 1,000 villagers rallied at the Guangzhou city government headquarters as the provincial people’s congress met elsewhere in the city for the closing ceremony of its annual session, according to the South China Morning Post:
The protesters from Wanggang village demanded adequate compensation for land seized by their local government and the removal of the village’s party secretary.
In a new challenge for Guangdong’s liberal-minded party chief Wang Yang, they threatened to turn their village, in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district, into “a second Wukan” if their dispute was not solved properly. Li Hongding, a 32-year-old villager, said it was their third rally outside the headquarters; their previous appeals were ignored. He said they were worried that all the land in their now-urban village would soon be gone if an investigation into the local government’s actions was delayed further.
“With the collective power of our villagers, we want to get our voices heard by the government during the provincial people’s congress,” Li said. “Communist rule in Wanggang village has clearly been replaced by corrupted power affiliated with triad gangs. If our problems are not solved, Wanggang will become Guangdong’s second Wukan. The land is left by our ancestors, we will fight until the end to get it back.”
Xie Xiaodan, a newly appointed deputy mayor of Guangzhou who oversees areas including public security and petitioning, was sent to meet villagers after 5pm. Five villagers were chosen to meet Xie inside the Guangzhou petitions office next to the city headquarters.
All eyes are now once again on Wang Yang to see how he’ll deal with the new protest. Yesterday, an important article written by him appeared in the Communist Party journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) in which he sought to further cement his position as a liberal reformer. In the article, Wang argued on the importance of placing the interests of the people above all else. The test of whether he truly believes what he says couldn’t have come sooner.