Chinese village chief at centre of land grab protests to stand trial this week on corruption charges

Lin Zuluan’s family says charges are politically motivated; villagers warned to stop daily marches calling for his release

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 4:44pm

Villagers in Wukan in Guangdong province are stepping up their demonstrations as their leader, Lin Zuluan, was set to stand trial for corruption on Thursday.

Wukan made headlines around the world five years ago after staging a series of defiant protests against land seizures.

Local authorities have warned villagers, who have staged marches for 79 days calling for Lin’s ­release, to stop protesting.

Upon hearing the news that Lin would stand trial in Foshan this morning, Wukan villagers posted a notice announcing their plan to step up their marching efforts.

A photo of the notice was posted online. It read: “It is a unanimous move of the entire village body to launch mass demonstrations twice a day at 9.30am and 4.30pm from September 8th to September 11th.”

“All of Wukan’s fisheries, shops, markets and construction projects will be suspended[during the period].”

Villagers have marched around Wukan’s perimeter ­almost every afternoon since Lin’s arrest, chanting slogans and waving banners calling for his release.

A warning letter was sent to most villagers on Monday from the Lufeng city public security bureau, saying they would face legal consequences if they did not stop the marches by Saturday.

“Most of us have received it, but we will press ahead anyway until [Lin] is released. The more warnings they send us, the more we are doubling our marching effort,” one villager said.

The charges against Lin ­include receiving bribes and rigging bids for official contracts.

Lin’s sons tried to hire lawyers to represent him, but they were forced to step down from the case by Guangdong judicial authorities. Lin ended up being represented by two lawyers referred by the government, a move that was criticised by his family.

Lin had been planning a speech in June to rally support for a new round of petitions over unresolved land disputes, which villagers said had been stalled by officials. On the eve of delivering the speech, Lin was dragged away from his home by police.

Video footage was later released of him confessing to taking bribes.

His family says the confession was coerced.

The authorities in Lufeng and Shanwei later accused Lin of taking 80,000 yuan (HK$93,000) in kickbacks over the construction of a running track at a local school.

Lin’s wife has fled Wukan and his grandchildren have been put under surveillance and warned to stay away from overseas press.

The protests against land seizures and corruption in Wukan in 2011 ended with the provincial government allowing the villagers to directly elect their chief.

The villagers in the remote fishing village had fought to regain more than 10 square kilometres of illegally occupied land. They reclaimed 1.3 square kilometres, but disputes remain over the remaining areas.

Wukan: a village living in fear following arrest of party chief