Village activist locked up along with entire family after protest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 4:34pm

Yao Baohua and his wife will be separated by steel bars on their 50th wedding anniversary this Tuesday. He is locked up at the Changzhou Detention Centre awaiting trial, accused of "inciting a mob" and disturbing the peace.

The 75-year-old maths teacher-turned-rights activist has spent much of the last 10 years fighting what he calls unjust expropriation of land by developers in his Jiangsu village. He once landed himself in a labour camp for re-education for more than year.

Yao's activism has once again gotten him locked up by security officials, but this time, he's not the only one - his entire family has been pulled into the fray.

Yao’s son and daughter were accused of inciting a mob and creating “public disorder” in November 2011. They were detained by police nearly a year later. His daughter was subsequently released in January but by this time, Yao’s 74-year-old wife, Liu Qinfeng, was also brought into custody.

The Yao family's troubles started in November 2011 when a developer who was looking to take over land had hired thugs to rough up villagers. A protest erupted and ended in violence. Liu was injured in the scuffle and has since been seeking compensation for medical expenses.

According to Yao’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, on his blog on Sina, the Yao family had been protesting against a real estate company’s incursion onto 30 acres of collective land to build an “illegal construction project” in their village. Villagers were not offered “a penny in compensation”.

Liu Xiaoyuan told the South China Morning Post that there were only two possible reasons the Yao family was being detained.

“The police who is helping the developer could be intimidating them to move, or it could be retaliation against [Yao] for helping villagers resist development in the last decade,” he said.

Refusing eviction, Yao and his family have throughout the years lived under constant harassment. On several occasions, their doors were broken and windows smashed. Yao reportedly called the police dozens of times but not once did any come to help, said the lawyer.