Villagers silenced after death of campaigner

Authorities in Yueqing, Zhejiang , have urged local residents to stop 'spreading rumours' about the death of a village official, under pain of severe punishment.

The notice, issued by the city government and posted everywhere in Puqi town, where the village is, came after hundreds of villagers threw stones at police on Saturday.

The announcement called on those who had taken part in the riot to turn themselves in, for more lenient treatment, and urged others to tip off police, according to Pengmomo, a well-known activist who went to Yueqing and launched his own investigation into the death of Qian Yunhui, the 53-year-old former chief of Zhaiqiao village.

The notice threatened to punish anyone failing to safeguard order.

The sudden death in a traffic accident of Qian, who had been jailed for 3 1/2 years over the past five years for helping his fellow villagers to petition for land compensation, had sparked wild online speculation that he was murdered by those with close connections to power and wealth.

Internet postings grew more sceptical, as two separate witnesses told Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily and the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post that they had seen three masked men, in white gloves, seizing Qian's hands and forcing his head beneath the wheel of a truck on the morning of December 25. Local police have repeatedly said Qian's death was a traffic accident.


Pengmomo said yesterday that the atmosphere was subdued near the scene, with no local residents daring to talk. Numerous villagers had been detained for allegedly participating in the protest on Saturday.

Some internet activists, including columnist Wang Xiaoshan and Liu Shasha, had been detained for questioning by local police but were later released.