Villagers rage anew over leader's death

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am


Residents of a fishing village in Lufeng, Guangdong, staged another rally yesterday to seek justice for the rural leader who died in police custody after riots over land grabs.

A woman from Wukan village, who requested anonymity, said about 7,000 people attended yesterday's rally and a gathering to mourn Xue Jinbo, the 42-year-old villager representative who died at a Shanwei detention centre on Sunday.

A male resident said they planned to hold a public memorial ceremony at 9.30am today for Xue, who was among the leaders detained in the wake of the riots.

'We are not satisfied with the autopsy result given by the authorities that Xue was killed by a heart attack during interrogation,' he said.

'We protested ... to ask the provincial government to give Xue and all villagers justice over our land dispute with the local government because we have never believed what local officials have said.'

Xue's relatives alleged he was a victim of police brutality, claiming his body was bruised and showed other signs of abuse. Government officials said an examination this week concluded that the bruising was post-mortem discolouration.

Five village leaders were detained after a massive riot in September over the sale of a pig farm to leading mainland developer Country Garden, Lufeng's city government confirmed.

Villagers transferred ownership of more than 33 hectares of farmland to a Hong Kong businessman to run a pig farm in 1997. But the farm resold the land to Country Garden this year, when their contract was due to expire, without villagers' consent.

Another resident, nicknamed Ah Chou, said yesterday's rally also demanded that the Shanwei city government, which oversees Lufeng, order the release of the other four leaders. Rumours have been circulating in the village that the leaders have been tortured.

But the Lufeng authorities released online video clips of them on Wednesday, with one rural leader assuring the rumours were untrue.

'I eat well and sleep well every day here because they [officials] treated me humanely,' Zhang Jiancheng told his sister in a video posted on Shanwei's official website. 'You have to tell villagers not to believe any rumours when you get back home.'

The footage also showed that meetings between the four village leaders and their relatives were closely watched by officials at the detention centre.

But Ah Chou said none of the villagers were interested in watching the video 'because we know everyone had to follow the scenarios planned by the authorities'.

'Their relatives and our four representatives were forced to compromise with the authorities. Otherwise, no visit was allowed,' he said.

Two village officials allegedly involved in a suspicious land deal have been sacked and put under investigation, and future land development will be undertaken only with the approval of a majority of villagers, according to a press conference held by the Shanwei government on Wednesday.

However, the villagers said they were still not satisfied. 'What we want is the return of our farmland to us and our leaders to be given justice. But so far our government is playing stalling tactics to stop us from protesting to upper levels,' a resident said.

'The two village heads allegedly being punished are just grass-roots officials who helped senior officials benefit from the land sale, while the officials did not mention anything about how much compensation they will pay us for the land deal.'