A look at the news in China today suggests that the ongoing standoff in the village of Wukan is being given a high level of priority by provincial leaders in Guangdong, who appear eager to demonstrate that they are on top of the incident and take the concerns of villagers seriously.
The constructive tone coming out of Guangdong’s upper echelons contrasts starkly with remarks made yesterday by the top leader of the city of Shanwei (汕尾), Zheng Yanxiong (郑雁雄), who acridly criticized villagers for “placing their hopes with rotten foreign media, rotten foreign newspapers and rotten foreign websites.”
Guangdong Satellite Television reported late yesterday that Guangdong’s top leader, Wang Yang (汪洋) — who has been tipped as a possible candidate to enter the Party’s powerful politburo standing committee late next year — has said the Wukan incident was the result of tensions that had been allowed to build up without being addressed and resolved.
The Guangdong Satellite Television report is based on an address given yesterday by Guangdong’s deputy party secretary, Zhu Mingguo (朱明国), to a gathering of Party leaders in the city of Lufeng. Zhu has been appointed to head up a provincial government working group to resolve the Wukan incident.
Wang Yang’s basic “direction” on the Wukan incident, as conveyed by Zhu Mingguo yesterday, is as follows:
The occurrence of the Wukan incident was accidental in nature, and at the same time it was inevitable. This is a result of the long-time ignoring, through the process of economic and social development, the build up of tensions occurring in the process of economic and social development. It is an inevitable result of our emphasis on ‘one hand tight and the other hand loose’ in the course of our work.
It is important to note that Wang Yang is most certainly not suggesting here a contrast between economic policy and political reform — i.e., that lax economic policies combined with tight political controls are behind crises like this one. He is not suggesting that more should have been done, or should now be done, on the political reform front.
Wang Yang’s remarks are reminiscent of those made earlier this month by security chief Zhou Yongkang (周永康), about the need to “improve social management.” The idea is that while Guangdong has taken an active approach (一手硬) to economic development, it can do more to improve “social construction,” or shehui jianshe (社会建设).
There are a total of 8 articles on the Wukan incident appearing today in 7 mainland media. There are two articles in Guangdong’s official Nanfang Daily as well as articles in Southern Metropolis Daily, Shenzhen’s Daily Sunshine, the Shanghai Morning Post, Guangzhou Daily (the official Party paper in Guangzhou) and China News Service.
The above articles are all based on today’s report from the Nanfang Daily concerning the work team in Lufeng led by Zhu Mingguo. There is virtually no variation in the reports, the only point of departure being the sourcing of the information in the Daily Sunshine, which says its report comes from the official website of the Shanwei party and government.
All of the reports convey the news that Zhu Mingguo addressed cadres in Lufeng as the head of the provincial working group, and said that “the provincial Party committee and the provincial government give a high level of priority and concern to the interest demands of the masses of Wukan village.”
The reports go on to outline the basic points of Zhu Mingguo’s speech, as follows:
1. The basic demands of the villagers are reasonable, and there are discipline issues among village leaders.
2. The extreme behavior of the villagers can be understood and forgiven, and the Party and government will not hold them responsible. For those who engaged in destructive activities and admission of wrongdoing will be sufficient to exonerate them.
3. Anything is on the table for discussion so long as villagers agree to sit down with the government to earnestly resolve issues. The government guarantees freedom of movement for those chosen to represent the villagers in negotiations.
4. The government pledges to refrain from entering the village to make arrests so long as illegal conduct does not continue and anti-government actions are not again organized.
5. Lin Zulian (林祖恋), Yang Semao (杨色茂) and other organizers and instigators know only too well that the government is already working to resolve the reasonable demands of the villagers. If they remain obstinate, continuing to stir up villagers in resistance to the government, irredeemably allowing themselves to be used by domestic and international hostile forces, they will be pursued.
The sternness of this last point recalls remarks made in a very different spirit at the Lufeng meeting yesterday by Zheng Yanxiong (郑雁雄), the top Party leader in the city of Shanwei (汕尾市), the prefectural-level city in Guangdong that administers Lufeng County where Wukan is located.
Zheng, who was sitting to the right of Zhu Mingguo during the meeting, seemed to be boiling over with anger at the recalcitrance of Wukan villagers and the (as he saw it) depravities of foreign media. A video of portions of Zheng’s address follows, but here are a few of his choicer remarks:
“If you can trust in outside media, then pigs can climb trees.”
“If you don’t make any more trouble, if you don’t break the law, the government will say, look, they can be relied upon, it looks like they won’t stir up chaos again — then there’s no need to have the armed police come. Do you think the armed police don’t cost money? Hundreds and hundreds of armed police are here now, and this comes every day out of the purse of our Mayor Qiu.”
“There’s only one group of people who really experiences added hardships year after year. Who are they? Cadres, that’s who. Me included. Did party secretaries before ever feel as tired as this? You have to handle everything. Your powers decline every day, and you have fewer and fewer methods at your disposal — but your responsibility grows bigger and bigger every day. Ordinary people have bigger and bigger appetites every day. They grow smarter every day, and they are harder and harder to control.”
“A responsible government like this, and you don’t look to us. You look to a few rotten foreign media, and rotten foreign media, foreign newspapers and foreign websites! You confuse good and bad entirely! What responsibility can they take? They can’t accomplish anything! If you can’t come together and socialism falls into chaos then they’ll be happy!”