Former Wukan protest leader Zhang Jiancheng (right) prepares to vote in village elections in Wukan in China's southern Guangdong province on March 4. China has punished eight former officials of Wukan for corruption, including the previous Communist party chief, state media said after their land grabs sparked an unprecedented uprising.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BEIJING: China has punished eight former officials of Wukan for corruption, including the previous Communist party chief, state media said on Monday after their land grabs sparked an unprecedented uprising.
Villagers in Wukan, in the southern province of Guangdong, began demonstrating in September last year over illegal land transfers by local officials.
The protests escalated and grabbed international headlines after a rebel leader died in police custody in December, prompting villagers to barricade roads leading into Wukan and face off against security forces for more than a week.
Wukan became a symbol of resistance against corruption, and to defuse the protests authorities backed down and promised rare concessions, including investigating the land dispute and allowing open village elections.
Guangdong party authorities announced on Monday that eight Wukan officials had been punished for corruption following a three month inquiry, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The included former party secretary Xue Chang, who villagers claim ran the fishing and farming village as a private fiefdom for years.
Authorities formally expelled Xue from the Communist party and confiscated 189,200 yuan ($30,000) in illegal income, Xinhua said -- moves which typically precede criminal prosecution.
Another former top official, head of the governing village committee Chen Shunyi, was also stripped of his party membership and had assets seized.
Six other officials were given lighter treatment, including being placed under observation and accepting administrative punishment.
Authorities listed several alleged charges against the former officials, including illegal land transfers, abuse of power, accepting bribes and tampering with village elections.
Wukan elected a new leadership committee last month, viewed as a landmark in the authoritarian state.
Villagers have expressed hopes Wukan will become a model of democracy in the one-party state, but experts doubt the victory will be replicated in other areas with similar grievances.