From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters
In 2011, residents of the fishing village of Wukan in Guangdong protested the steady appropriation of village land into the hands of developers by driving out the village officials and Communist Party cadres who had lined their pockets by allowing the thefts. Villagers blocked the initial attempts by troops to reassert control, and in effect were briefly sovereign until they negotiated the right to elect their own village leaders.
More than four years later, land grabs have continued, and are now authorized by higher officials. Shortly after elected village head Lin Zuluan called for a large meeting in protest, he was arrested and charged with taking bribes. Authorities threatened lawyers to keep them from representing him, and released a video of Lin confessing his guilt. Beginning on June 19, each day 3,000 or more villagers have marched in protest, carrying banners proclaiming that Lin Zuluan was innocent.
Lin’s forced confession recalls both the show trials of the Mao Zedong era and the latest intimidation of anyone in Hong Kong at all connected with the Occupy Central protests of 2014 or, like booksellers kidnapped from Hong Kong, making available forbidden ideas. In case anyone in Wukan or across China failed to get the point of Lin Zuluan’s arrest and his forced confession, the press is making it clear: Democracy and village elections lead the people into dark places and offer no hope for the people. But the people continue to protest.