Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers:
The standoff ended on December 21, and negotiations began. According to the villagers present, the deputy press secretary agreed, in the meetings, to release the village leaders still held in jail—including Zhuang—and to drop all charges. He agreed to return Xue Jinbo’s body and to launch an investigation into his death. The surviving twelve members of the negotiating council were given the authority to govern the village until an election could be organized in February or March. It was the first time in modern Chinese history that a protesting village had won this kind of compromise. Online, Western observers and hopeful Chinese activists spoke, tentatively, of a “Wukan Model.” Villagers started considering whether they wanted to run for election.
Zhuang had not been there for the barricade. He had spent twenty-one days in the Guangzhou prison, and by the time he got out, the siege of Wukan was over and his friend was dead. The village had won. Zhuang found it was possible to feel elated and brokenhearted all at once. He figured it was simple luck that while Brother Xue had been beaten, he had escaped unscathed. Maybe Brother Xue had run into a particularly sadistic prison guard. Maybe someone had paid the other inmates to rough him up and things got out of hand. Torture, in Chinese prisons, wasn’t unheard of. The Guangdong deputy party secretary had agreed to investigate Brother Xue’s death, but nothing would come of it. Zhuang, and Xue Jinbo’s family, would never find out what happened. Zhuang supposed that Brother Xue had sacrificed himself for the dream of what Wukan Village might one day be—its orchards restored, waters clear, and its villagers free and unified. He did not worry, yet, that the dream had died in that prison alongside Brother Xue.