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David Wertime

The Wukan Effect? Rumors of New Uprising in Zhejiang Province Village

[Readers can see an update to this post in Wukan 2.0? Evidence Mounts Panhe Uprising Is Real in these pages.]

Could it be the “Wukan effect?” That’s what @城道 has used to describe recent rumors of another uprising in Panhe’s East and West Village in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province that have recently circulated on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter.

Stop us if this sounds familiar. According to the latest chatter–which may be only that–beginning February 1, infuriated villagers have staged “massive” protests day after day to oppose local officials’ private sale of public land. According to Ms. Tan Xiaofang (@培训师谭小芳) who is verified on Weibo as a management consultant from Beijing, “Government personnel, including police, all fled the village, creating a state of anarchy. Currently, public order in the village is good [and] all is orderly. Villagers have had unprecedented unity and autonomy.”

As of the publication of this article, it is unclear how Ms. Tan came into possession of this information. Some netizens have asked, quite reasonably, for definitive proof of this latest news, which Tea Leaf Nation has not yet been able to acquire. @章立凡 queried, “Are there pictures?” There are, at least the images below circulating on Weibo. We will keep readers updated as we learn more.

 

Regardless of the facts on the ground, netizen chatter provides a fascinating window into how many Chinese might respond to the early phases of an uprising, before some strident dialogue has been “harmonized” out of existence.

Support for the protesters, and strong opposition to Chinese authorities, could be found everywhere. “I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, that’s great” @郁离成子 wrote. Many exhorted the villagers to “unite and rise up,” to “fight for your rights!” and extolled the virtues of democracy and especially “self-governance” (自治 in Chinese). @知青记者 offered a correction to the prevailing description of events: “It is not a state of anarchy; there’s not that government [which may refer to the Communist Party], but there is a real, democratically-elected government.”

Some netizens showed support for the uprising by aiming barbs at the powers that be. @还有箴言 proclaimed, “With the teachings [gained from] blood and sweat, 2012 will be the year the masses awake.” And @応該, referring to the prevalence of citizen uprisings that are then censored from all media, wrote, “The truth of the matter is right next door.”

History indeed seems to be repeating itself, and not just because of a similar incident which occurred at the end of 2011 in Wukan. In one frequently retweeted post, @高盼GaoPan writes, “One after another Wukans are about to surge forth. China’s democratic revolution will begin from the grassroots, beginning with those farmers commonly believed to be of ‘low culture.’” @剧照傅 observed this trend in Chinese history: “It seems that in China’s recent history of change, many begin from the farming villages…far from the capital cities. … Mao Zedong said: The villages surround the cities!” In particular, China’s south, where Zhejiang lies, has historically been a force for independence. As one netizen @波闻思修 wrote, “Taiwan is [greater] China’s land of hope, the South is the mainland’s land of hope.”

The year of the Dragon is often thought of as one portending change. Only time will tell if that means more than a scheduled change in the Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership. As one microblogger, @子曰禾火里予 wryly proclaimed: “Self-governance is becoming fashionable.” Stay tuned to Tea Leaf Nation as we continue to bring you the latest “fashion” trends from around China’s blogosphere.

[Readers can see an update to this post in Wukan 2.0? Evidence Mounts Panhe Uprising Is Real in these pages.]

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.