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Chinese Newspapers Praise Government Handling of Wukan Protest

State-run Chinese newspapers today praised a government-brokered agreement that ended a two-week protest over land in the southern village of Wukan after having carried almost no coverage of the standoff this month.

The People’s Daily said officials promised to meet protesters’ demands with “sincerity” in a commentary published today while a China Business News article said the government had handled the issue “very well.” A Global Times editorial, titled “Put public first when solving land disputes,” called the villagers’ demands reasonable.

Wukan’s residents called off a protest march yesterday after a senior Communist Party official from Guangdong province promised to release villagers detained by police, address flaws in electing local officials and redistribute land that had been sold off unfairly. Barriers that had been blocking police from the village were taken down, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

Local government officials should aim to put the public first and help them “fulfill reasonable interests,” the Global Times editorial said.

Until today, there had been little coverage of the Wukan protest in domestic Chinese press. On Dec. 19, when the protest was under way, there were no mentions of Wukan in more than 200 Chinese newspapers, according to the China Media Project.

Village Elections

The unrest in Wukan first began in September, when disputes over land, local elections and village finances between residents and local officials led protesters to attack police and overturn cars, according to the Shanwei city government. Protests flared again this month after police detained five villagers on accusations that they had led demonstrations and one of the men, Xue Jinbo, died while in custody on Dec. 11.

The decision to meet the villagers’ demands is part of a wider government strategy aimed at containing such protests before they spread, said Joseph Cheng, a politics professor at the City University of Hong Kong. The standoff and other protests have sparked concerns that unrest stemming from China’s growth could undermine the Communist Party’s rule.

The “flaw” in initial efforts by local officials to resolve the conflict was that they didn’t deal directly with the villagers’ “fair” demands, according to the People’s Daily commentary written by Zhang Tie. The article didn’t give more details of Zhang’s identity.

Another report, published in today’s Guangzhou Daily, said Wukan’s residents would cooperate with a team investigating the protest. The article described the scene as being “peaceful” with the village’s small shops operating as usual and local children running “happily.”

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