Could this possibly be a happy ending for the Wukan saga? There will be a lot of eyes watching, and Malcolm Moore is there to file reports:
On Wednesday, it will hold what the villagers believe is China’s first wholly transparent, completely open, democratic election, in which any one of Wukan’s 10,000 registered residents can run for office.
At the local school, seven desks have been arranged on the basketball court, a shiny aluminium ballot box behind each one. On Tuesday, villagers collected their voting slips from the village’s government headquarters, and scrutinised candidate lists pasted on the walls.
As the sun shone, a carnival spirit was in the air, as villagers let off firecrackers and beat drums.
“We have seen a flame of democracy here and we have seen other places follow suit, in a domino effect. Other villages are learning from us. So we have to make sure that all the elections are open and fair,” said Mr Zhang.
The glee in the village over the vote did not seem to be shared by a group of local Communist party officials who arrived from Lufeng, which administers Wukan.
Pulling up in black limousines, their number plates covered, they scowled at journalists and held a summit with Lin Zuluan, the protest leader who has become the local Party secretary, in order to “clarify some guidelines”.
“I’m pleased we are having an election, but this is for the very lowest level of government and they will not be able to resolve our problems,” said Xue Jianwan, his 21-year-old daughter. “Even if we hired lawyers, we have only a dim hope. The government still holds all the cards.”
Miss Xue said her extended family had been put under pressure by the government to sign forms saying that her father had died from natural causes, something they strongly dispute. The local government has said it will not release Mr Xue’s body for fear of stirring another protest.
In addition, there is still no sign of any resolution about the land that the village says was illegally seized, the root of its complaint.
“There is still an arduous journey ahead of us,” said Mr Zhang. “We succeeded, where tens of thousands of other villages have failed, because we were so strongly united, and there was no division between us. We had a clear target. I hope, going forward, the villagers do not think too much about their small, private, interests, but keep thinking about our long term gain.”
There’ll definitely be more about this as the elections proceed.