Villagers who rebelled against authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong went to the polls Saturday to elect a village council. Thousands of people lined up in Wukan to cast votes in what some reformers are calling one of China’s freest elections ever. Many villagers watched eagerly as the election committee and volunteers counted ballots before announcing Lin Zuluan had been elected village chief. Lin, who helped lead protests three months ago, said the newly elected officials would work for the people. “We will do the best job we can with the power given by your great support and help,” said Lin.
Elections are not uncommon in Chinese villages but the candidates are often put forward by local communist leaders who are often accused of manipulating the results.
Wukan won rare concessions from the government after staging weeks of protests against allegedly illegal land grabs and local government corruption. The protests peaked in December when one of the town’s representatives died in police custody. The death prompted residents to take control of Wukan, forcing Communist Party officials to flee and police to cordon off the village.