After Wukan villagers drove out their leaders in a famous uprising last year, the Chinese government has appeared to side with the protesters. The government has punished 20 officials and former village leaders from Wukan, the Associated Press reported today.
Tension erupted in Wukan last September, after officials sold Wukan land to developers without properly compensating the local villagers.
Villagers all over China have struggled with this practice, often referred to as land grabs. But Wukan's case is rare because the villagers managed to stage a well-organized revolt and evict their own leaders. After running their leaders out of town in December, the villagers then barricaded themselves in against riot police, Reuters reported. The riot police eventually gave in. Villagers held their first "truly democratic" elections in March and elected fellow protesters as their new leaders, the New York Times reported.
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The Chinese government announced Monday that two of Wukan's former leaders have since been charged with corruption. Xue Chang, the former Party chief of Wukan, and Chen Shunyi, the former head of the village committee, have been expelled from the Communist Party of China over corruption and election-rigging charges, China Daily reported today. They have been ordered to turn over $45,000 in illegal gains.
Six other former village officials and 12 higher-level officials have also been punished, according to Xinhua News Agency, but the agency did not provide more details, according to the AP.
Some of Wukan's villagers feel that the Chinese government didn't go far enough, however.
"I feel that they're avoiding the heavier problems and picking on only the minor ones. The amount of money these officials are accused for corruption is too low, considering that they've been around for decades!" villager Zhang Jianxing told BBC News today.