Fights erupt after political beating

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am

Two men badly beat the wife of a popular challenger for a seat in a local people's congress in a Zhejiang village as the couple strolled in Huaxi at 7pm on Monday, according to locals.

Scores of villagers surrounded Huaxi's local police station in the nearby village of Huangtianfan on Thursday to demand action. Fights erupted when officers ordered villagers away and kicked and hit those nearest, witnesses said.

Wang Huitian , the popular village head of Huaxi Sicun, a subsection of Huaxi, is challenging incumbent Wang Tiandeng (no relation) for a seat in the January 16 election for the Dongyang People's Congress. Wang Huitian was reportedly only slightly injured in the attack, while his wife, Jia Yuefang is in serious condition in Dongyang's Chinese Medicine Hospital.

'They attacked them because they are their political opponents,' said one villager. 'The people all support our village head, but the other guy has no connection with us as he is supported by the Dongyang government,' he said.

Villagers accuse Wang Tiandeng, also a local businessman, of ordering the attack on Wang Huitian and Ms Jia. Wang Tiandeng could not be reached for comment yesterday at his Dongyang Plastic and Aluminium Company.

A woman answering the phone at the Huangtianfan police station denied there had been a disturbance on Thursday, but was heard clearly shouting to a colleague that 'some Hong Kong media are asking about what happened yesterday' before hanging up.

Huaxi has been riven with unrest in recent years following the illegal construction by local officials of chemical factories that villagers say have poisoned the environment and caused serious health problems in their community. While villagers have succeeded in having most of the factories shut down, relations have soured.

In local people's congress elections vote-buying and intimidation are widespread and popular candidates often fail to win.