A FARMER from a small village in the central province of Anhui was beaten to death on the orders of local officials after he had sent a letter to their superiors complaining about their exploitation of villagers. The official China Youth Daily said yesterday that Mr Ding Zuoming died of a ruptured spleen after being severely beaten by three members of the village defence force at the local police station. The village leaders had been so incensed at Mr Ding's impudence in daring to criticise them that two days after he had delivered the letter they summoned him to the police station and attacked him with their fists. Those responsible have since been arrested. Mr Ding had written the letter of complaint to the county government and party committee at the request of the other villagers, who had long been demanding an investigation into the irregular accounts of the local officials and the exorbitant fees charged to farmers. It was alleged that the village leaders had extracted a total of 126,852 yuan (HK$172,011) in illegal fees and charges from the 1,204 local farmers last year. Being one of the few high school graduates in the village, Mr Ding was considered the best person to draft the letter, which he reluctantly agreed to do. Analysts said Mr Ding's murder was another example of local government and party officials running their domains like ''little kingdoms'' without regard for the law or individual rights. They believe these kinds of murders, detentions and beatings happen on an almost daily basis.