Xinhua: “Thousands of people in south China’s village of Wukan went to polls Saturday to elect a new village committee, several months after staging massive protests over illegal land sales and other issues. The villagers cast their ballots at a voting center set up on a village school campus from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. Saturday. The results are due late Saturday night. Twenty-two candidates delivered public speeches on Wednesday to woo votes. The village committee includes at most seven members, including a chief and two deputy chiefs. A 50-percent turnout is required to validate the election results, and winning candidates are required to take at least half of the votes. An additional election would be held Sunday if fewer than three people obtain the required number of votes. Saturday’s voting marked the last phase of a three-phase election that has resulted in the selection of an 11-member election committee and 109 village representatives thus far. Voters are required to show identification and obtain written authorization before they can cast their votes. The voter turnout was 81.4 percent Saturday, sustaining the high levels seen during the last two elections and indicating the villagers’ enthusiasm for more open and transparent direct elections. (Xinhua/Liang Xu)”
Last year, Wukan defied authorities and there was a major stand-off with security forces surrounding the village as it protested against illegal land grabs by the local authority and the mysterious death of a protester in custody. Surprisingly, instead of a violent end, the authorities backed off.
This year it held it elections as usual, but with one major difference. It could choose who to vote for and not only those pre-selected by the Party. This may seem like a small thing. But, perhaps it could also be the opening of Pandora’s box and local elections may never be the same again in China. And, who knows, maybe there will be free elections for district and county level in due course. And, one day, free elections at national level. BUT, if you are a pro-democracy person, I do not recommend you holding your breath for such a day soon.