A Shaanxi village election candidate's wife and relatives were beaten by authorities when they tried to seek an explanation for what they believed was an unfair election. The incident raised concerns throughout the country when it was reported on state television earlier this week, and it follows recent media exposure of several cases in which innocent people had died in similar circumstances. Suspecting that the results of the village election in February had been rigged, pig farmer Che Weijun - running for the post of deputy village chairman of Niujiaojian village - asked for an explanation from a cadre in Dizhai township, but was told an investigation was not possible. After the second round of the election in April, Mr Che again suspected that the number of votes he received had been fiddled. Failing to get an answer from election officials, his wife, sister-in-law and aunt approached the same cadre but were shouted at and later beaten by a group of men. Mr Che's wife said the men bundled them into a van and beat them throughout the journey to the town government headquarters. The women spent 10 days in hospital recovering. A villager who witnessed the attacks was also taken away by a van to the town government headquarters, where he was also beaten by several people. A hospital found nine of his ribs were broken. The Dizhai government later sent Mr Che 1,500 yuan (HK$1,410) to cover hospital expenses for his family, but demanded that he sign a document saying he was at fault and that he would not seek redress again. On Thursday, an officer at the Dizhai branch of the Communist Party, surnamed He, said the secretary of the local party branch had been dismissed and the incident was now being investigated. Another officer at the Dizhai town government said senior officials had gone to Niujiaojian village to investigate the incident. 'This incident is being treated as a very serious matter,' she said. Lin Tai, a social science professor at Tsinghua University, said such incidents were common across the country. 'Many officials still have this feudal thinking that they are superior to the ordinary people,' said Professor Lin. 'They would never admit that they could be wrong.' He said many people were simply too afraid to take officials to court out of fear of repercussions. To change that, he said, both the party and the government must send a message that abusers would not go unpunished. 'The handling of these cases must be seen as fair,' he said. A commentator on a Shanghai website was appalled by government officials' violence and cruelty against the villagers. 'In this day and age, how can local governments still use fists and sticks against their own people as and when they like?' he asked.