LUFENG, Guangdong - One year after disgruntled residents in south China's Wukan village staged a mass rally, progress has been evident in the village's self-governance.
Wukan was thrown under an international spotlight last year when its residents staged three waves of large-scale rallies in four months to protest against village officials' alleged illegal land grabs, corruption and violations of financing and election rules.
Order was restored after a senior provincial official held talks with villagers in December, and e-elections were held earlier this year, during which Lin Zulian was appointed as the new Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of the village of 13,000 residents in Guangdong Province.
Addressing a gathering of about 200 villagers on Friday morning, Lin said more than 3,800 mu of land, which was illegally transferred or allocated under the tenure of his predecessor had been returned to Wukan.
In the meantime, six livelihood projects with a combined investment of 60 million yuan ($9.5 million dollars) are "progressing smoothly", Lin said. The projects are supported by provincial and municipal governments.
Lin however confessed that the newly elected committee, with little work experience, had made mistakes over the past few months, and he would accept criticism and suggestions from the villagers to jointly solve the land disputes and achieve economic development.
He said a group of five people had been chosen from 109 villager representatives to form a supervising committee, which would keep a close eye on the development guidelines, policies as well as other mechanisms of the village.
"The installation of all these organizations is to ensure the openness, fairness and impartiality of the village work," Lin said. "The key to supervision lies is in two aspects: one is people, and the other is money."
Lin's public addressing was hailed by villagers, who dispersed shortly after the speech.
A villager, Hong Ruiqing, said Wukan was currently in its best period for years, as the new committee had done within a few months what the former committee failed to do over the past few decades.
"I envisioned that more land would be returned in the future," Hong said.
Not all villagers, however, are satisfied with the work of the new committee, indicating that Wukan still has a long way to go before good self-governance is realized.
Quite a few villagers argued that at least 6,000 mu of land had been illegally transferred, and hoped that the new committee would get all the land back as soon as possible.
Moreover, the new committee is facing challenges of raising the livelihood of residents.
Hong Ruichao, a committee member in charge of agricultural and industrial management of the village, said Wukan's economic activities had been bogged down, partly thanks to the persistent protests last year.
Lin hoped the villagers would have full trust in the committee. "Real democracy lies in mutual communication, mutual consideration and mutual understanding," Lin said.
Experts said it is crucial to mobilize the villagers to be involved in self-governance.
"We need to continue thinking over and discussing how to let the Wukan villagers reach consensus with the governments, concerning the land disputes, in a democratic way so as to achieve sustainable development for the village," said Zhu Jiangang, director of the Civilian and Social Development Research Center at Sun Yat-sen University.
"It's a long and bumpy road, but Wukan has already started the journey," Liu said.
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