Wukan village chief accused of toxic track graft

Authorities say party secretary took 80,000 yuan in kickbacks as protests calling for his release extend into sixth day

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 2:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 2:01am

Authorities in the eastern Guangdong city of Shanwei say the Communist Party secretary of Wukan village, Lin Zuluan, received 80,000 yuan (HK$93,700) in kickbacks from the construction of a school running track.

However, villagers are continuing to protest, demanding the release of the village chief, who had been at the centre of protests over land seizures.

State broadcaster China Central Television reported that the authorities had confirmed on Friday an internet posting accusing 70-year-old Lin, also known as Lin Zulian, of receiving 80,000 yuan from a 420,000 yuan synthetic running track project at the village’s school. Shanwei city government press office director Shi Shuoyan said the investigation had confirmed accusations in the internet posting and Lin had also confessed.

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To ensure pupils’ health, the city’s education authority had ordered the school to stop using the synthetic running track and samples had been sent to a state-appointed laboratory for testing, CCTV reported, adding that the parties involved should be dealt with severely if the track was confirmed to be toxic.

The local government released a video of Lin in detention early this week in which he confessed to taking “huge kickbacks in contracting and procurement projects”, without specifying the nature of the projects.

Friday’s accusation came in the wake of safety concerns about school running tracks across the mainland. CCTV aired an investigative report this week about toxic industrial waste being used as a raw material for synthetic tracks at schools in Beijing, following reports in the past few months of children falling ill after being exposed to school running tracks.

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However, Wukan villagers and some internet users said they were not convinced by the latest allegation against Lin, who won a rare open election in 2012 following a stand-off with the government. One internet user said it was as convincing as saying Lin was “conspiring with aliens from other planets to exterminate earth”.

Meanwhile, villagers continued to protest for the sixth day since Lin’s arrest in the early hours of last Saturday, saying he was innocent and calling for his release. His wife has not received formal notification of his arrest from the authorities and the family’s attempts to hire lawyers have been repeatedly blocked by authorities in Shanwei, Lufeng and Guangzhou.

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Lawyer Ge Yongxi, from Guangzhou, was forced to refund retainer fees on Wednesday. Another lawyer, Yu Pinjian from Guangxi, said on Thursday that he had been blocked on his way to Lufeng, which is part of Shanwei.

Lin’s sons were said to have appointed lawyer Wei Rujiu but Lufeng prosecutors prevented him from meeting Lin on Thursday, saying “Lin himself refuses to hire a lawyer”, according to a Wukan villagers’ internet chatroom.

A handwritten statement circulated online on Friday bearing Lin’s signature said he “fully trusted the authorities to handle the case with justice” and would not require a lawyer.