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Chinese experiment in village democracy turns sour

Published on Sep 21, 2012 8:32 AM

WUKAN, China (REUTERS) - One of China's most celebrated experiments in grass-roots democracy showed signs of faltering on Friday, as frustrations with elected officials in the southern fishing village of Wukan threatened to boil over into protests.

Only a year ago, Wukan became a beacon of rights activism after land disputes there sparked unrest and led to the sacking of local Communist Party officials. That in turn led to village-wide elections for a more representative local governing committee to help resolve the bitter rows.

But early optimism has turned to disappointment, with hundreds of fishermen vowing to lay down their nets on Friday, the first anniversary of Wukan's initial village-wide march, to protest against the committee's slow progress.

"The hopes are too high," said Mr Yang Semao, Wukan's deputy village chief who was elected in a feted and democratic election in March. At the time, expectations were high in this village, built on a sheltered harbour fringed by mountains, that he and his fellow elected officials could recover farmland that had been seized by the previous local administration.

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