Three arrested during protest seeking removal of village chief

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2005, 12:00am

Police and other officials in Panyu district yesterday detained three villagers as dozens of residents of Taishi village seeking the removal of their village chief for alleged corruption started a hunger strike outside a government office.

Taishi residents Feng Qiusheng , Feng Weibiao and Liang Shusheng joined village leader Feng Weinan in custody as 70 fellow villagers began a hunger strike outside the Panyu government office. Feng Weinan's detention on August 16 sparked clashes between more than 1,000 villagers and police.

An activist helping the hunger strikers said the three men had been in hiding but were arrested after they joined the protesters. Police also seized a protest banner.

A plainclothes officer blocked this South China Morning Post reporter twice as I tried to get away by taxi before taking me back to the district office for an 'explanation' of the dispute.

One female protester said the villagers would fast until they received an answer to their demand. 'If we don't get an answer today, we will come back tomorrow,' she said.

A statement issued to reporters said the villagers had resorted to the hunger strike to force the government to give them a speedy answer to their demand to set up a committee to remove village chief Chen Jinsheng , who they accuse of embezzling funds.

The statement said the residents had maintained an around-the-clock watch on the village accounts office to prevent the theft of account books, but the vigil was too physically taxing.

The villagers had set August 29 as the deadline for the official's removal and began the hunger strike after the district government let the deadline pass.

The local civil affairs office said it had not rejected the villagers' request but was waiting for them to provide the original of a petition signed by 400 villagers calling for Mr Chen's removal.

Guo Feixiong , another activist helping the villagers, said lawyers had told him the law did not require the submission of the original petition to oust a village chief and advised the villagers to hold onto the original document.

'We fear that the original would be confiscated and we would then have no legal evidence to proceed with our action,' Mr Guo said.