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Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment

A six-part series on Wukan, the Chinese fishing village which in 2012 held its first democratic elections in decades.

In late 2011, Wukan, a small fishing village in southern China , captured international attention when it rose up against decades of corrupt leadership. The odds appeared insurmountable – the authorities are not known for tolerating dissent. Still, despite a crackdown and the death of a leading activist, the unthinkable happened: the Village Committee fell and democratic elections were announced. 

So what happens after a successful uprising? Filmmakers Lynn Lee and James Leong follow Wukan’s villagers as they grapple with the challenges of a new political system. Former activists attempt to run the village, listen to the people, and deal with provincial and county authorities. 

Wukan returned to the spotlight in 2016, when the arrest of the elected village chief reignited protests and led to a harsh crackdown by authorities.

This six-part series begins as the first elections get under way and follows the unfolding journey of China’s extraordinary experiment in grassroots democracy over the course of five years.