THREE months after the ignominious decline and fall of Yu Zuomin, the official media has begun a campaign to quietly rehabilitate the village he had ruled with an iron fist for the past two decades. Daqiuzhuang, known as China's ''richest village'', was thrown into disarray early this year when police from nearby Tianjin moved in to arrest Boss Yu and his cohorts for the torture and murder of a villager. Without Yu at the helm, the village which reportedly had a gross domestic product of 4.55 billion yuan (about HK$6.09 billion at the official rate) last year effectively ceased to function. Factories and offices closed down and most of Daqiuzhuang's ''millionaire villagers'' spent their days frittering away their earnings in restaurants and seedy karaoke bars. While Yu languished in police detention over the summer, the village remained in a state of limbo. No one was quite sure what was going to happen to the boss and his clansmen. There were persistent rumours that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was about to intervene on behalf of his ''old friend'' and as such no one dared to assume the reins of power in his absence. But that intervention never came and on August 27, the Tianjin Intermediate People's Court sentenced Yu to 20 years in prison for his role in the murder of Daqiuzhuang worker Wei Fuhe. A few weeks later, Yu was stripped of his membership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the advisory body to China's parliament, the National People's Congress. The court decision forced Daqiuzhuang to establish a new leadership structure which would hopefully help get the village back on track. According to the official media, Daqiuzhuang has already succeeded in putting the ''unfortunate episode'' behind it and is continuing on the path which saw it rise from a poverty-stricken hamlet to become the wealthiest village in the country. The People's Daily reported that Daqiuzhuang still expected to achieve a gross domestic product of nearly five billion yuan this year, while the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend newspaper claimed the village's investments in the coastal resort of Nandaihe were still booming. The Economic Daily, in a commentary published this month, said these reports confirmed that while Yu might have fallen from grace, Daqiuzhuang was still very much a model village. ''Should we still study the economic experiences of Daqiuzhuang? The answer is a definite yes,'' the newspaper said. Daqiuzhuang's rise from rags to riches, it said, was not achieved through luck or preferential policies and was preceded by numerous setbacks and failures. Daqiuzhuang might not be the ''hot spot'' it once was but the village's pragmatic approach to economic development was still worth learning, the Economic Daily said. The CPPCC News said the rich villagers who profited from Yu's rule should not be punished for the mistakes of one man. Whether these reports about Daqiuzhuang's rise from the ashes of the Yu affair are true or not is difficult to verify because foreign reporters, who last year were welcome to tour the miracle village, are still barred from entering Daqiuzhuang. Most observers doubt, however, that the village has managed to put the sordid affair behind it and get back to business as normal. The consensus of opinion is that the official media campaign has more to do with reaffirming the merits of rural economic reform than with objectively reporting the economic conditions of Daqiuzhuang. ''The propaganda machine invested so much time and energy into turning Daqiuzhuang into a model for everyone to follow that it simply cannot afford to let it disappear all together,'' a Western businessman in Tianjin said.