Five months ago, thousands of residents of a tiny fishing village in China’s Guangdong province staged an unlikely rebellion. For weeks, the residents of Wukan faced down a police siege before ultimately deposing their Communist Party leaders.

Now, Wukan is seeing the fruits of its labor — with its first-ever open and transparent elections.

Residents carry their household registrations to register before casting their votes during their first-ever open democratic elections for the village committee in Wukan, Feb. 1, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, 7,688 villagers participated in free and fair elections to select an independent election committee that would oversee upcoming ballots, MSNBC’s Behind the Wall blog reports. The election to replace the ousted leaders will take place in March.

Wukan villagers first began protesting in the fall as a response to government land grabs, a common source of discontent in China.

But tensions escalated past the usual protest when a villager died in police custody in December, and local police took drastic steps to quell the protests, including sealing off the food supply to Wukan and blocking all mentions of it online.

Five months later, as the majority of village comes out to vote, Wukan is being “heralded as a new model of reform,” the Global Post reports.

A voter carries his ballot out of a voting booth in a classroom of a school turned into a polling station in Wukan. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Journalists were allowed to observe the voting, a leader of the revolt was appointed as village secretary, and ballot boxes were set up in very public locations, like elementary schools.

“This is the first time we have ever seen a ballot,” Chen Liangshan, 61, who used to work in one of the village's temples, told The Telegraph. “I have already got the list of people I will vote for in my mind. I am glad to get the chance to choose people who will actually do something.”

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