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Chinese villagers revolt, elect fellow protesters as new leaders

Wukan villagers said it was the first fair election they had seen.

China guangdong protest 2011 12 15Enlarge
Residents of Wukan, a fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong, rally to demand the government take action over illegal land grabs and the death in custody of a local leader on Dec. 15, 2011. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Wukan villagers held elections today after revolting against their corrupt local government in December. The villagers elected fellow protesters as their new leaders, McClatchy Newspapers reported

About 6,800 of Wukan's 8,000 eligible voters showed up at a local school to cast their votes, BBC News reported.  Lin Zuluan was voted in as village chief and Yang Semao as his deputy.

"With this kind of recognition from the villagers, I'll work doubly hard for them," Lin told a cheering crowd of villagers, according to Reuters.  

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It was the first "truly democratic" vote to take place in decades in Wukan, a fishing village in the Guangdong province, the New York Times reported

Protests began last September, after officials sold Wukan land to developers without properly compensating the local villagers.

Villagers all over China have struggled with and protested illegal land grabs. But Wukan's case is rare because the villagers managed to organize a revolt and evict their own leaders. After running their leaders out of town in December, the villagers then barricaded themselves in against riot police, Reuters reported. The riot police eventually gave in and agreed to let residents hold elections. 

Residents from other villages said that Wukan's revolt brought them hope. Some even came in to observe the elections. "Wukan is an example for us," Hua Youjuan, a village chief from Huangshan, told Reuters

But the Times found some signs that Wukan's success may not last. One activist said that he had been followed by security guards. And a nominated candidate told the Times that officials from another city told her to "think twice about running for office." 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/120303/chinese-villagers-revolt-elect-fellow-protesters-new-leaders