Driver who crushed protesting Chinese village chief to death released early

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 2:16pm


A truck driver jailed for crushing a Chinese village chief to death in a case that inspired a film by dissident artist Ai Weiwei has been released early, media said Tuesday.

The death of Qian Yunhui, 53, raised suspicions that he had been murdered for campaigning over land seizures in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and the Global Times said that local residents had “suspected foul play”.

Fei Liangyu was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in February 2011.

But his sentence was reduced because of “good behaviour” and he was released on June 24, said the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.

It did not give further details or explain the delay in the news coming to light.

Ai, an internationally renowned avant-garde artist, made a 102-minute film about the incident earlier this year, using footage of the site of the death and interviews with villagers and others about the case. “Most of the evidence is in the government’s hands so you can never really have the full picture of the truth in China in most cases,” Ai told AFP by phone Tuesday.

Qian, the leader of Zhaiqiao village, had been detained three times since 2005 for repeatedly demanding compensation for farmers after nearly 150 hectares (370 acres) of land was seized for a power station, earlier reports said. Land requisitions by the authorities, often in collusion with real estate developers, remain one of China’s most controversial issues, with officials routinely accused of enriching themselves through arbitrary land grabs.

The ruling Communist Party has expressed mounting concern over such actions as well as corruption and environmental degradation, with thousands of public protests each year. Ai’s outspoken criticism of China’s leaders and involvement in sensitive social campaigns have made him a thorn in the government’s side.