Villagers forced to sign 'hush form' over shootings

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am

Bereaved families in the Guangdong city of Shanwei, where police killed at least three people when they opened fire on villagers last year, have been forced to sign a statement promising not to talk to 'outsiders' about the conflict, a victim's relative said yesterday.

Police fired on protesters in Dongzhou village on December 6 as they voiced opposition to a government land grab that would clear the way for a coal-fired power station in Red Bay, near Baisha Lake.

The foster father of Lin Yidui, a 26-year-old killed in the standoff, said Shanwei propaganda department officials had kept the relatives under strict surveillance since late February.

The foster father said local officials forced the villagers and those injured to sign the statement because some villagers had tried to contact overseas media and petition Beijing about their case.

'They [local government officers] forced all relatives of victims, injured people and their family members to sign a statement which said they wouldn't say anything to overseas media or make contact with outsiders, otherwise they would be punished,' he said.

He said every member of his foster son's family in Dongzhou was forced to sign the statement, including Lin's mother, Jiang Miao, while plainclothes officials had camped outside her home to monitor their activities.

'They are so scared and have not left the village since then, to prevent getting into trouble.'

Jiang Haiying, deputy head of the Shanwei municipal party committee's Organisation Department, said on March 5 that the shootings had been carried out by regular police, not members of the People's Armed Police.

Ms Jiang said the three people killed 'should not be seen as civilians, but criminals with a violent streak'.

Lin's foster father said the villagers had not been aware of Ms Jiang's statement and had been isolated since the start of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress early last month.

'We villagers are nobodies. The officials can say anything they like because they are shameless and lawless,' he said.

He said many villagers had been financially ruined by the shootings because the dead, detained, missing and injured were all young men and breadwinners.

'The injured and missing people's families have not been given one fen. Life is very hard for all of them,' he said.

A Shanwei propaganda department official confirmed that extra attention was being paid to villagers' daily activities, but refused to give further details.

'We are just keeping in contact with the villagers because we see them as friends,' he said.