Residents of the village in Guangdong province protested amid claims of illegal land seizures by the local government.

Story highlights

Village leader says the elections reflect the villagers' own will

Wukan residents drove out government officials during protests in December

After a tense standoff with the authorities, they reached a deal to resolve the crisis

The vote Wednesday is to appoint an electoral committee

Beijing CNN  — 

Residents of a fishing village in southern China voted Wednesday, asserting their right to participate in local decisions after a tense standoff last year where they drove out authorities over land rights and corruption.

The election in Wukan comes after the violent confrontations in December forced villagers to expel government officials and set up barricades to prevent police from entering.

“We are now having an election reflecting the villagers’ own will, that’s a good thing,” said Yang Semao, one of the protest leaders who has served as the head of the village after the standoff.

Yang said by telephone that the vote Wednesday was to appoint an electoral committee that will in turn hold elections for village representatives in March.

He said the aim was to get more people involved in the village’s decision-making process.

Villagers clashed with the Chinese authorities last year after grievances over land rights and corruption by local officials.

Residents of the village in Guangdong province claimed local governments have seized land illegally for the past decade and sold it to developers.

News of a sale of nearly 1,000 acres of land to developers prompted violent protests by villagers who said they had not received any compensation even though they relied on the land for their livelihood.

In December, the villagers drove out government officials and set up obstacles to prevent the police from entering the village.

With the international news media drawing worldwide attention to the situation, the Chinese authorities trod carefully to defuse the standoff.

Zhu Mingguo, the deputy party secretary of the province, held talks with a village representative to negotiate a deal that included the release of villagers detained by the authorities during the protests.