China Protest Village Wukan Holds Council Elections

Residents of a Chinese village which staged a high-profile revolt over the perceived corruption of local officials are voting for a new village committee.

Residents of a Chinese village which staged a high-profile revolt over the perceived corruption of local officials are voting for a new village committee.

Villagers write the names of candidates in front of ballot writing booths during an election in Wukan, in China's southern Guangdong province March 3, 2012. Residents of a southern Chinese fishing village gathered on Saturday to elect a new administrative authority that many hail as a model for greater grassroots democracy in China following an uncompromising standoff over land grabs and abuse of power.

Villagers in Wukan ousted local officials three months ago in protests over land seizures.

As part of a deal to end the unrest, China's authorities made the rare concession of allowing fresh elections.

The revolt in Wukan came to symbolise anger felt over similar land grabs by officials in rural China.

Although Communist Party officials often interfere in the process of choosing local officials, the residents of Wukan are confident that these elections will be different, the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing reports.

"For the first time in decades, this is an opportunity for democracy," Wukan's Party Secretary Lin Zuluan told Reuters.

Simmering unrest

Activists from other parts of the country have travelled to Wukan to observe the polls and to try to highlight their own grievances.

"Wukan is an example for us," Hua Youjuan, a village chief from Huangshan in eastern China where residents have also protested against corruption, told Reuters.

"What Wukan has achieved through its solidarity is something we can also learn from," he added.

Protests had been simmering in Wukan, in Guangdong province, since last September.

Villagers said officials had sold off their land to developers and failed to compensate them properly.

The unrest escalated after the death of a village negotiator in police custody in December.

Police say he died of a "sudden illness", but his family say he was beaten to death.