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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hopes for Democracy in China

Wukan, China- 12,000 citizens are expected to vote
The small agricultural village of Wukan, Guangdong is the scene of something seldom witnessed in China today democratic elections. Elections have been held for decades all over China at local levels but they have seldomly been as hotly contested as those taking place today. This is due to recent rare reforms by the ruling authoriatrian Communist Party who have allotted greater powers to the local village leadership councils in the face of growing civil unrest.

Many village residents are furious due to to perceived illegal seizures of agricultural land and Premier Wen Jiabao has told his people that they will vow to give local residents greater protection against rural land seizures, pointing to its failings in this regard in the past.

Why is it though that elections which have been held consistently for many years are only now gathering such attention? The answer lies in a growing political organisation in the village which has renewed people's hope in the power of democracy in one of the worlds last surviving"Communist" nations. The people of the village have protested in ways which would have been brutally punished in the past. Over the past few months they have organised themselves into forces which ransacked Government offices and even barricaded themselves into the city against riot police in December following the death of their leader in police custody, by susposed heart attack.

However, it remains to be seen if this group can effect real political change. The Government undoubtedly fears its own extension of the Arab Spring but in a country where a search of the Tianamen Square incident yields no relevant search results and in which the country's own leader was censored for speaking out in favour of reform   it is unlikely to see sweeping change over night. The people of Wukan have taken something of a tentative first step but the journey has yet to truely begin.

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