Village chiefs are pressuring more than 4,000 peasants to drop their lawsuit against the local Government. The peasants in Xishui village, part of Songshan township, Hubei province, were suing the town Government for imposing excessive and illegal taxes and fees, and for resorting to violence in collecting the money, the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Weekend reported. They claimed the taxes and fees violated provincial regulations and demanded the Government repay as much as six million yuan (HK$5.28 million). The lawsuit was considered the largest case filed against a government by mainland citizens, according to the paper. Other local governments in the province faced at least three similar lawsuits, it said. Village bosses began visiting each of the peasants in Xishui in June, in an attempt to force them to drop the lawsuit. The peasants' representative, Chen Jinyao, had been beaten up at least 10 times, the paper said. The taxes - based on the area of land under cultivation - had forced many farmers to abandon their plots, and had driven several to commit suicide, the paper said. It said higher levels of government were often powerless to solve disputes at the grassroots level. The Intermediate People's Court in Huanggang has repeatedly postponed the hearing, apparently because of interference from the village bosses. Although the peasants had repeatedly petitioned the municipal Government in Huanggang, Songshan officials were said to have shrugged off the challenge and lied to municipal officials that most peasants had repented after 're-education' and agreed to drop their lawsuit. The plight of the peasants highlights the difficulties mainlanders face in taking legal action against government. A law was passed three years ago giving ordinary Chinese the legal right to take the government to court. But legal experts acknowledge that the absence of a proper legal-aid system and the excessive power enjoyed by officials often deters people from seeking justice through legal channels. The central Government has repeatedly warned local officials not to impose excessive taxes on farmers, but reports of such abuses remain widespread.