|Wukan agitator ponders US aslyum
A leader of the 2011 Wukan protests in China that grabbed worldwide attention has fled to the US to seek aslyum, media reports and an associate said today.
The departure of Zhuang Liehong underscores the troubles the village in southern Guangdong has faced since free elections after months of demonstrations.
Wukan residents ousted their longtime leadership after discovering land sales that they called self-serving and illegal.
Zhuang was one of several organizers elected to the village committee in 2012, in what was celebrated as a rare successful popular uprising in a one-party state.
But he fled China in January after another protest erupted, fearing police, reports said.
A researcher who studied the Wukan uprising told AFP Zhuang phoned him from the US recently and said he would seek asylum.
“He told me this a few days ago,'' said Xiong Wei, who runs a think tank in Beijing that looks at legal and rural issues, and spent three months in Wukan during the protests.
The US embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the weeks ahead of new elections scheduled for March 31, Wukan's two deputy chiefs Yang Semao and Hong Ruichao, also originally protest leaders, have come under investigation for corruption.
Xiong said many villagers believe the inquiries were meant to block them from standing at the polls, and that besides Yang and Hong there were few strong candidates.
“As I understand it, in the committee elections, the villagers will basically lose,'' he said. “No one else has influence.''
Yang was accused of taking bribes in public projects, Xinhua reported, while Hong was charged with bribery connected to building projects, said the official blog of Lufeng city, which administers Wukan.
Yang – who has been freed from detention to help prepare for the elections – told AFP by phone: “Objectively speaking I didn't get any benefits.’’