The Wukan Village Uprising
An intense situation is developing China at this very moment. The contradictions of restored capitalism are making themselves very acute, leading to violence between the people of Wukan village and the fake Communist Party of China. When socialism died in China in 1976, property was no longer communal and could be sold to private interests. This was the progenitor to what lead to the situation we have in the Wukan village today. The introduction of private property has not only decreased the living standards of working class Chinese and peasants, but it has led to greater and greater incidents of social unrest.
With the restoration of capitalism in the mid-1970s, much of the income the Chinese government has received has come from taxes and selling off state owned production facilities and state enterprises. Later this trend continued when they discovered that selling off communal land to private interests was immensely profitable. Since the abolition of agricultural taxes in 2006, the government has had great success in collecting funds from the selling of peasant lands. The government seizes them from peasants and gives them money for it, then sells it to a private interest for much more money than it was taken. These land seizures and sales are called profit-making. The land is sold for more than what it was obtained for. Its an unequal exchange between peasant-the government-private owner. This unequal exchange is the only way in which profit can exist.
This has been so profitable for local governments that its has become a major source of annual revenue. These land seizures however, are a great source of social unrest as well. Many of these land grabs are done illegally and/or have incidents of corruption behind them. The dubious nature of these land grabs and other such incidents have caused an estimated 90,000 civil disturbances each year. It is also estimated that 180,000 such incidents, called “mass incidents”, occurred in 2010 alone. Farmers have not been receiving a fair price for their land, leading to cases of violence across the country.
The people of Wukan village (which is about 20,000 people) have suffered through these seizures as well. The local government grabbed hundreds of hectares of cooperative land and sold it to a private real estate firm. The villagers are accusing the local party officials of keeping a great deal of the money that was supposed to be given to the people of the village as compensation. They allege that about $110m US dollars has been pocketed by those officials that was intended for the local population. This loss of land has made it very difficult for farmers to survive.
The villagers say they have had no knowledge of the latest sales. They only found out about the recent ones when construction in the land began.
The reality of what is happening here is disgusting. These communal lands were once the achievement of revolution. Private property that had been used to brutalize and exploit the population was reorganized to serve the masses of people who saw a dramatic increase in their living standards. This was the model by which a new society would be formed. In a few places in China, those new places were formed. New human social relations that were not determined or controlled by the relations of production. The relations of production were determined by the social relations. Where once a land was striving for equality, the likes of which the world had never seen before, is now being dominated by ‘expensive new government building and a sumptuous holiday hotel resort that contained a row of 60 luxury villas. A glitzy new “Golden Sands” nightclub is a new attraction that brings rich visitors from out of town.’ The promise of a better world is being trampled by mindless self-indulgence, and profit motive corruption.
When this situation of endemic corruption and land theft became too much for the population to endure, protest broke out at the party offices in Lufeng. These protests began as sit-in protests that were estimated to be about 50 people holding signs. Some signs read, “give us back our farmland” and “let us continue farming”. As the protest grew larger it became more aggressive. Peaceful protests have done little in the past to change the mind of the Chinese government. Many residents started “damaging buildings and equipment in an industrial park” while also blocking the road. police were called and they severely beat several teenagers who were banging a gong to alert others to the protest. That day 3 people were arrested, the next day more than a hundred people showed up to the police station and demanded their release.
The news that several youngsters had been seriously injured after being set upon by ‘thugs’ caused hundreds of irate villagers armed with makeshift weapons to besiege a local police station where 30 to 40 officials were sheltering. Hundreds of well-equipped riot police were dispatched; they engaged in a stand-off with the peasants. Video footage shot by villagers in Wukan showed people of all ages being chased and beaten with truncheons by riot police. One Wukan villager described the police and other security staff as “like mad dogs, beating everyone they saw”. The Financial Times reported that two children, aged nine and 13, were “badly injured”, and that one may have died. Villagers said elderly and children protesting peacefully were harassed and assaulted by “hired thugs”, provoking an angry reaction from villagers. The attacks on civilians by 400 police officers were described by the Financial Times as “indiscriminate”.
On the third day of protests the government reported that a dozen police officers had been injured and six police vehicles had been damaged. Discussion of this incident on social media have been removed, and little information has been allowed to pass through censors in the Chinese media.
Villagers awaited retaliation from the government, but did not receive it. Instead the Guangdong provincial party chief Wang Yang had the police move away from the area in protest. In a public statement Wang said that he was prepared to accept less economic growth in order to obtain an increase in harmony within the province. Many do not believe Wang and instead see this as a political ploy to protect his image. For quite some time the village of Wukan has been seen as a model of peace and prosperity. An image Wang wishes to keep up as he is being considered a good candidate for the politburo when Hu Jintao retires as the head of the government. The police returned on the fourth day of the riots.
After these riots the village elected 13 representatives to deal with the government over the matter of the seized land. One of those representatives was Xue Jinbo who was arrested outside a restaurant by plain clothes police. While in police custody Xue Jinbo died. The Lufeng city government, which oversees Wukan, said in a statement he died of heart problems, though Wukan’s residents widely suspected he was murdered while in custody.
Ten family members, including Xue’s daughter and wife, were permitted to see Xue’s body, but were prevented by police from using cameras and telephones. Xue’s daughter said her father “was covered in bruises and cuts, both his nostrils were caked with blood, his thumbs were bent and twisted backwards, and a large bruise on his back suggested he had been kicked from behind.” Xue’s son-in-law Gao said that he had seen the body in the morgue and that Xue’s “knees were bruised, his nostrils were caked with blood and his thumbs appeared to be broken.” Xue was aged 42 or 43 at the time of his death. Since Xue’s clothes were clean, his family believed that he may have been stripped prior to being tortured.
The state run Xinhua News said that Xue had a history of asthma and heart disease, however Xue’s eldest daughter told a Hong Kong online journal, iSun Affairs, that her father had “absolutely no history of heart problems”.
After this incident protesters stormed the local police station and forced law enforcement personnel and party members out of the village. Later 1000 police returned attempting to take the city but failed to do so. The police responded by blocking food and other essential supplies from entering the city. Afterwards daily meetings between the protesters and provincial officials that ended with the government having “vowed to temporarily halt questionable property sales and to investigate claims that the local government illegally confiscated farmland for private development”. That same day a vigil was held for Xue where 7,000 people attended.
A stand off between protesters and police still remain.
Violence against teenagers