Weinan municipal government in Shaanxi province recognises that most of the nearly 60 million yuan relief fund allocated by the central government to victims of the Wei River floods in 2003 has still not been distributed, but it rejects claims that officials have embezzled the money. That year's summer flood in the Wei, a tributary of the Yellow River, left 3,474 families homeless, prompting the central government to allocate 59.06 million yuan for relief and resettlement, said an official statement earlier this month by the Weinan municipal government. It said 2.17 million yuan had been used in relocation projects, with 52 families receiving cash. Under the relocation regulations, farmers can only receive allowances when they leave their low-lying homes and farms for higher ground to escape future flooding. But the government did not explain why it did not return the remaining 56.89 million yuan to the central government immediately, instead of letting it sit in local government coffers. Meanwhile, three of four farmer representatives remain in jail after being sentenced to one year of re-education through labour on November 23 for leading dozens of villagers to demonstrate at the government office, demanding payments from the relief fund and the return of farmland occupied by local authorities. This is despite their each having paid sureties of 3,000 yuan. The fourth member of the group, 68-year-old Ma Lianbao , who suffers from high blood pressure, was released early this month after his son paid his 5,000 yuan bail. 'We just want to make the problems with the relief fund public because they [officials] have wasted a lot of money. We'd rather return the money to the central government than have it be wasted by the local government,' Mr Ma said. He added the land they were demanding back had belonged to ancestors displaced by the Sanwenxia Dam project in the late 1950s. In all, 150,000 families in Weinan were forced to move. The central government allowed them to return home in 1986 because the dam area was reduced after a redesign. Dai Qing, a former journalist at Beijing-based Guangming Daily and anti-dam crusader, said flood victims in Weinan were the scapegoats of the dam project. 'All the problems have been caused by the project. The project was definitely a serious mistake made by the Communist Party. It has not only swallowed up 8 million hectares of the best farmland, but it also causes regular floods in Shaanxi. 'But the party never faces the problem squarely ... It seems like the central government has lost control over local governments because of mass corruption among party cadres.'