Probe confirms villagers' complaints
Villagers in Wukan, Guangdong, who made headlines with their protests over illegal land grabs, have welcomed the preliminary findings of an investigation by the provincial government that confirms their complaints and that local officials had taken bribes.
The special top-level team announced its results on Friday, saying former village party head Xue Chang and other village officials had sold farmland without consent, the China News Service reported.
Besides illegal land deals, Xue and others had taken bribes from land buyers, it said, and officials from the land resource bureau of Lufeng city, which overseas Wukan, also behaved corruptly.
Zeng Qingrong, deputy director of Guangdong's Provincial Supervision Department, who led the probe, said accounts showed Xue and subordinates had taken funds earned from the land deals but shared very little with villagers.
Villagers complained that up to 400 hectares had been stolen by Xue and Chen Shunyi , who headed the village party committee for more than four decades, China News Weekly reported.
Not only were Xue and Chen involved in embezzlement, but they had been negligent, Zeng said. Xue and Chen had allowed Fengtian Livestock Products to occupy 3.5 hectares of land for free, while Guangdong Richvast Group - a livestock and home appliances company - had cheated the village out of at least 4.3 million yuan (HK$5.25 million) in land deals, according to CNS.
It said the officials and others involved in the land deals were being investigated for corruption.
Villagers said that they were satisfied with the investigation's preliminary findings, but were not sure how they would be handled.
'It's too early to say whether our local government will follow up and implement the instructions of the provincial government,' one of the villagers' representatives said yesterday, adding that they were worried the authorities would not allow them to elect new leaders to replace Xue and Chen.
'If the Shanwei government gives us another village party head and cadres who are not our ideal candidates, we will fight again until they agree to conduct a real open and just re-election,' the representative said
Villagers have clashed with police and protested to upper level governments over their land disputes since September, with no firm results until now. On December 11, a village representative, Xue Jinbo , died in police custody, sparking new tension as angry villagers vowed to stage a mass protest against the Lufeng city government. But they cancelled their plans after Zhu Mingguo , deputy party secretary of the province, agreed to return Xue's body to his family and release other villagers.
The number of hectares Wukan villagers say have been stolen by village party leaders over the years