Powerpoint Presentation: Wukan
I can imagine on the election day that, hundreds of people, villagers or foreign journalists, used their camera with an excitement they have never experienced before. The wooden three-sided object is nothing but a crude handicraft. But on that day, in Wukan Primary School’s playground, these wooden voting booths became symbols of democracy for China. After so many years, democracy is still a stranger to the land of China but the dream came true in Wukan that day.
Wukan is a coastal village located in Guangdong province, southeast China. Wukan breeds about 13000 people or 2600 households. As other rural areas in China, Wukan is poor and less developed, compared to coastal cities. Therefore, villagers, who usually graduate from middle schools, are ready to leave their hometown for modern cities in search of jobs and opportunities. Others who live and stay in Wukan either work in local businesses, such as running a grocery store or a restaurant, or work as farmers or fishermen. Land is an essential part of peasant’s assets in China. In Wukan, most households own land inherited from their ancestors. Land owners usually use their land for domestic or business purposes. In addition to private ownership, much more land is owned collectively by the Wukan people as a whole. The communal land should be managed by the Village Committee (VC), which, according to Organic Law of Village Committees, is a “primary mass organization of self-government” (Article II) in village level in China. The “primary organization of Communist Party of China in the countryside” works with the VC. All members of the VC shall be elected directly by all eligible villagers, according to the Organic Law (Article XI). Members of the party’s primary organization are elected by village’s party members, which is around one hundred.
Wukan is a relatively small village (population ca. 20,000) located in Guangdong, China. Wukan’s residents stared to protest against local corruptive officials in September 2011 and the village was finally granted the right to elect their leaders directly. Under the Organic Law of Village Committees, all of China’s approximately 1 million villages are expected to hold competitive, direct elections for subgovernmental village committees. However, the Organic Law does not provide any other guidance on election method. Therefore, nearly all of the local elections are rigged and only “direct” in formality. Wukan’s residents had casted their votes for the village chief in March 2012. Wukan’s democratic experiment is going to challenge those who suspect if Chinese are “ready” for democracy. If the less educated villagers are able to manage direct election well, the argument that democracy is not “feasible” in the country of the largest population in the world is invalid. More importantly, will Wukan be the harbinger of democratization in China? What effect has Wukan delivered to other villages in China? Methodology of this research is based on examination of public documents (digesting local newspapers and broadcasts which are not accessible in the U.S) and a field observational trip, , during which I will record villagers’ public behaviors and possibly local administrative changes brought by the election.