A farmer in Fujian province committed suicide because he could not pay the illegal taxes levied on him and demanded by local officials, the Beijing Morning News reported yesterday. It recounted the tragic story of Lin Qingnian who lived with his wife and four relatives in Xianyou county near Putian city. On December 9, 1999, eight local cadres went to Lin's house and demanded more than 4,000 yuan (HK$3,760) in taxes they claimed Lin owed between 1996 and 1999, including farm tax, special farm product tax and general project tax. The average annual income of a Fujian farmer in 1999 was 3,100 yuan. The officials said their figure was based on a household of nine, but Lin protested that his family had only six, as three others who had lived there previously had moved out. The officials refused to explain how they calculated the figure and started to quarrel with him. They forced their way into his home, one of them breaking the door down with a rock, the report said. Lin and one of his children started a fist fight with two of the cadres. One pulled him into the corridor outside, while the other smashed a mirror and storage cabinet, removed a television set and was about to set fire to the door when neighbours restrained them. The cadres left, telling Lin that he had 10 days to find the money. Five days later, they went back to the house again to demand the money. Lin locked the door and refused to answer, so they went away. On December 28, because he could not find the money, Lin and his wife took rat poison and Lin also took six sleeping pills. When neighbours went to the house, they found Lin dead and his wife in serious condition. She was rushed to hospital and released eight days later. After Lin died, the local Government and Communist Party committee failed to investigate the case and did not report the incident to higher authorities. But when the Putian city party committee found out, they punished the officials involved. They expelled one from the party, ruled another ineligible for party membership, and thereafter handed the case to judicial authorities. Such abuse of power is common in villages, which often have many underpaid officials who rely on taxes and fees paid by farmers for their income.