The Taishi (China) Elections - Part 1 (Chronology)
If you google the word "Taishi" in English (note: this post was started on September 19, 2005), you may not find much news. However, this continuously unfolding event has been going on weeks, and the latest developments are all over the Chinese-language Internet. This is about an election in the small village of Taishi (population about 2,000), Panyu districty, Guangzhou.
First, a bit of relevant background from Reuters via Boston Globe:
China, where the Communist Party has enjoyed a monopoly on power since 1949, is moving surely toward democracy, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday. "China will press ahead with its development of democratic politics, that is reconstruction, in an unswerving way, including direct elections," Wen told a news conference ahead of an EU-China summit. "If the Chinese people can manage a village, I believe in several years they can manage a township. That would be an evolving system."
China has introduced direct elections for village chiefs in more than 660,000 villages, and many of those elected are not party members. But it has dragged its feet on expanding suffrage for the election of officials at higher levels. Wen has in the past defended the delay, saying China is a vast, populous, underdeveloped country and levels of education are inadequate.
Before they worry about town elections, they better make sure that they know how to deal with village elections. That is why everyone is looking at Taishi Village. Since the events have been unfolding over many weeks, I cannot hope to translate all the major developments. But a good starting point would be to give you the summary of the chronology. The principal document is the massive one from Fan Yafeng titled the Taishi Village Incident Memorandum, Version 3.0 (范亚峰, 太石村事件备忘录) (see Yannan (postscript: this subject was purged and subsequently the entire website was shut down)) and the combined report at ChineseNewsNet. The Fan document has 79 pages at 120,000+ words, and I cannot possibly translate all of them (note: Version 5.0 has 220,000 words). So this will be a summary. This is not the complete story as yet, and this post will be updated as more details are filled in and the events continue to unfold.
According the Rural Villagers Organization Law of the People's Republic of China, Article 16 stipulates that if 20% of the eligible voters sign a joint petition, they can ask for the recall of the village committee members. A reason (or reasons) should be given in the motion for the recall. The village committee official who is the subject of the recall has the right for an appeal. The village committee members should announce a villagers' meeting on the recall in a timely fashion. The recall will be voted on by those villagers with voting rights.
(July 29, 2005) A group of villagers led by one named Feng Qiusheng began a signature collection campaign and obtained more than 400 names to recall the village committee director Chen Jinsheng. This was in accordance with the Rural Villagers Organization Law of the People's Republic of China, Article 16. Taishi Village has about 1,400 eligible voters, and so 400 plus names exceeds the 20% threshold.
The Panyu Civil Affairs Bureau received the motion to recall and promised to reply within a month.
(July 31, 2005) A villager named Feng Qiusheng called for a public forum on electoral law. This forum was attended by the villagers as well as news reporters and even legal scholars from Guangzhou. Feng read off eight items from a copy of the Villagers Organization Law.
For example, item 2 of article 19 states that the amount of overtime and the compensation rate for village officials should be decided in a villagers' meeting. That is, the wages for the village cadres should be determined by the villagers and not by the cadres themselves or their superiors.
In article 22 of the Rural Villagers Organization Law of the People's Republic of China as well as the Guangzhou local law, the village committee must publish budgetary details at least once every six months for the villagers to see. These financial details should include (1) the village's planned budget versus actual spending; the various projects and their expenses, revenues and debts; (3) the state of business for the collective enterprises, including land and agricultural enterprise information, the details of bids and contracts, fulfillment of contracts, etc; (4) the overall financial income for the village and how it is being used ...
"But as you know, our village committee members do not publish the financial details and they do not call villagers' meetings, and therefore they have violated our right to know, monitor and decide, and to set the wages for the village cadres. We have try to petition higher authorities, but we have gotten no satisfaction. Therefore, we have begun a signature collection campaign to recall the village committee director Chen Jinsheng. We are following the law, and the law will be our guardian."
Another issue was that there were suddenly five empty plots in the land owned by the production brigades. It seemed that there was an intention to build factories there, but the villagers have heard nothing whatsoever. The villager officials refused to say anything, the land developers refused to say anything, and petitioning the Panyu government got nowhere.
During this meeting, 80-something-old grandmother Feng Zhen got up on a pile of rocks in her bare feet and gave a speech against the many things that village committee director Chen Jinsheng did during his term. Eight or nine other villagers also spoke.
The two scholars from Guangzhou also told the villagers that they are taking a perfectly legal path to protect their rights without resorting to violence.
(August 2, 2005) Nanfang Rural News published a special feature and made grandma Feng Zhen an instant star among the people.
(August 3, 2005) The village security director and several town policemen threatened some of the recall petition signers and told them to rescind. When the masses found out, several hundred of them went down to the village committee office and the police fled.
(August 4, 2005) Deep in the middle of the night, the village accountant and a companion triggered off the alarm in the budget office. Several hundred people rushed over and suspected them of attempting to alter the books. In the morning, the town deputy chairman and police officers came and wanted to take over the books for Taishi Village. When the news got out, several hundred villagers came down to the village committee office to defend the budget office. They made calls to the police station, but they were ignored. They called the Guangzhou City Communist Party disciplinary department and government oversight offices, but they wanted the villagers to turn the books over to the local officials. So the villagers continued to defend their books themselves. A group of old ladies moved into village committee office, and guaranteed that there will always be at least 10 people stationed there, day or night.
By the villagers' estimate, the village revenue should be of the order of 30 million RMB as in a similar village, but the books only showed a few million.
A certain Taiwan investor was sympathetic to the plight of the villagers and provided them with food and water. However, this became an issue of 'foreign influence' and the Taiwan investor had to go back home for a while.
(August 16, 2005) At 4pm on August 16, Taishi villager Feng Weinan was riding his motorcycle. He slowed down at the intersection north of Taishi Secondary School and was about to make a turn. A small delivery van came towards him and four to five plainclothesmen jumped out, hauled Feng off his motorcycle into the van and they sped away. All this happened too fast for the villagers to react. Meanwhile, three other small delivery vans were stopped by the villagers and they found the Panyu town government deputy chairman and the district public security bureau deputy director in them. The three vans were surrounded by the masses for more than an hour.
At about 530pm, several dozens of police cars arrived and more than 500 riot policemen armed with shields came out, backed by more policemen carrying truncheons. The villagers were not afraid and continued to demand the release of Feng Weinan. Several villagers used their own cameras to take photos. When the public security director saw that, he personally jumped down and effected the arrest of villagers Wu Zhuhui and Wu Zhixiong. The police also attempted to snatch two more of the signature campaign organizers but they escaped by running away.
At 6pm, some official issued an order and the riot police moved in. The female villagers were jostled with shields and poked with truncheons, with many were injured. Five more villagers were arrested. A 16-year-old was hit behind his head and suffered a major concussion. He was also stomped in the chest and a footprint-sized bruise was still visible on his chest weeks afterwards. 80-something-year-old Feng Zhen stood in the way of the police, but they picked her up and threw her by the roadside. She was nearly unconscious and had to be sent to the hospital for care. She sustained a broken bone plus other bruises.
The police cleared the way for the three besieged vans, which sped away. All the police cars then left. About a dozen police men could not get on their cars in time and had to run away on foot. The time was 630pm, and 1,500 villagers were at the scene by then.
During the entire confrontation, the villagers did not fight back at all. By prior agreement, they adopted a non-violent stance -- if the police yell at you, you don't yell back; if the police hit you, you don't hit back.
(August 29, 2005) The Panyu District government officially rejected the motion to recall from the villagers of Taishi village. The stated reason was that the villagers had given the government copies instead of the originals of the documents.
The villagers point out that Article 16 did not say that only originals are accepted; furthermore, the villagers had to submit the motion to recall to the town government, the village committee and the district Civil Affairs Bureau separately whereas there is obviously one and only one original copy.
(August 30, 2005) Several dozens of Taishi Village residents held a sit-in at the Panyu government office, while announcing that more than 80 of them are on a hunger strike to protest the decision to deprive them of their legal rights for a recall. The protestors would come from Taishi Village in waves by rotation.
(September 1, 2005) At early morning of September 1, the sixteen Taishi Village residents holding a hunger strike outside the Panyu government office were arrested by police. At 9:00am, the emergency firecracker alert was set off at the village committee office. This was a signal for all villagers to converge there for a meeting. Apparently, the village security director had issued an ultimatum to the villagers that they must clear out or else the police will be there between 11:00-11:30 to remove them. The crowd got very emotional and one person even said: "I'll take two canisters of liquefied gas and put them in the office. If they dare come in, I'll blow all of us up." Will the non-violent philosophy of the villagers be challenged?
11:30am came and went, but the police did not show.
At 12:30pm, the investigative reporter from South China Morning Post came to interview villagers. On her way, two young hooligans on motorcycles broke the window of her car with rocks.
At 12:50pm, the sixteen villagers arrested this morning returned to the village, together with three others arrested in the bloody incident of August 16.
One of the hunger strikers told everyone about her interrogation. Four town officials surrounded her and asked her if she was the chief instigator. She replied: "You are the chief instigators. You told us to go on hunger strike." The officials asked: "Is some boss supporting you? If you guard the village committee office, you get 30 RMB during the day? and 60 RMB during the night?" She replied: "Village committee director Chen Jinsheng supported us. We accept whatever he gives us." The officials got mad: "Don't speak any more, or we will prosecute you!" She said: "Go ahead if you want to!"
The arrestees were released around noon, and the officials even bought them box lunches. But they all refused, even though they had not eaten anything yesterday nor that morning.
(September 2, 2005) In the morning, another dozen or so villagers went to the hunger-strike sit-in at the Panyu government building. At around 2pm, the government sent out 200 police and arrested another dozen or so. Immediately, another twenty or so more female villagers set out to take their places.
At around 6pm, the original 16 who were arrested in the morning were released and they returned with their reinforcements. Although the police attempted to impede their progress home, including stopping their public bus, the women just got off the bus and walked home. Nothing was going to stop them.
(September 5, 2005) The villagers decided to change tactics. If the Panyu government wanted the orignal copy, they would present just that. There won't be any excuses afterwards. And they have also shown that if offered yet another petty excuse, they will come down and demonstrate again.
At 9am, five villagers led by Feng Weinan went to the Panyu District Civil Affairs Bureau and submitted an original copy of a motion to recall. By this time, the number of signatures has grown to more than 800.
Later, five district-level Civil Affairs Bureau officials and two other town officials visited the village and had a brief exchange with the villagers. They left with the promise that they will be verifying the signatures in the recall campaign.
(September 6, 2005) The Panyu District Civil Affairs Bureau posted a notice in Taishi Village that the department intends to be present on September 7 and 8 to verify the signatures listed in the motion to recall. The villagers were advised to bring their identity cards in person at the village committee office.
(September 7, 2005) At 8:00am, two to three hundred Taishi Village residents were already assembled in front of the village committee office awaiting for the Panyu Civil Affairs Bureau director Ma Bing and his work team to verify the recall documents and signatures.
At 8:30am, Ma arrived with an entourage of 40 to 50 people, including about 10 policemen and 10 municipal administration workers. As the group approached the village committee office, some of the villagers got concerned that the police was trying to see if they can breach the budget office. A 60-70 year old lady sat on a canister of liquefied gas and announced that she intended to set off the canister if the police should enter. The police tried to pull her off but the villagers defended her. It became a stalemate. Finally, director Ma agreed to back off and conducted the work in the courtyard outside the office. Tables and chairs were set up.
Since there were thirteen production brigades in the village, the work team had thirteen workers, one to verify the signatures for each brigade. The group began with the signed letter of September 5 with more than 800 signatures and verified the names and identification. Some villagers did not have ID cards and brought their hukou books instead, but the workers refuse to register them; some of the villagers could not write and asked others to write down their names and then added their palm prints, but the workers refused to add their names when the spelling was wrong. The villagers could not understand these refusals and argued with the workers, so it was somewhat chaotic. But the workers, police and other law enforcement people were relatively restrained.
At 11:00am, there was a most touching scene. A one-hundred-year-old grandmother insisted that her grandchild assist her to the scene, she handed over her ID card and she put her thumb print down on the registry.
In the afternoon, the villagers were very well disciplined, and there were no more disputes. Whenever the work team refused to register a villager, the other villagers advised the person to go to villager Feng Weinan to register his name and the reason of refusal. A 30-something-year-old handicapped female Feng Bingniu had no ID card but she has a handicapped person card; she asked someone to take her to the scene by tricycle and handed over her handicapped person card, but the work team still rejected her.
By 5:30pm, the villagers determined that there were at least 450 voters who had registered. The work team would later report that the exact number was 495. According to villager Feng Weinan's records, more than 30 villagers were rejected because they only had a hukou book but no identity card, plus about 10 who don't know how to sign and someone else put down the wrongly spelled name for them.
At 6:00pm, the work was completed for the day. The government team would return the next day for another session.
During the morning, a professor from Zhongshan University came with two assistants to make video recordings of what happened.
According to the voter registration data, there are 2,075 persons in Taishi Village, of which more than 1,400 were eligible voters. Article 16 would kick in if 20% (that is, 350 or so) had signed the petition.
(September 10, 2005) On this day at 9am, the Panyu district Yuwotou town government officially notified the people of Taishi Village that it had confirmed that there were 584 signatures, in excess of 20% of the total number of voters. Therefore, the government will proceed with the next step of the recall process.
(September 10, 2005) Nanfang Metropolitan News interviewed the Chen Jinsheng, the village committee director in the eye of the storm.
First, Chen pointed out that Taishi Village conducted an election in April this year. "I received more than 60% of the total votes and I was directly elected as the village committee director."
As for the seventeen points raised by the villagers, Chen smiled and said: "90% of them are false. The villagers are lying." He said that village land was definitely being sold. "In the early 1990's, when I still a Party Secretary in the village, the town government requisitioned some land but everything was completed during that decade. In 2002, with the approval of the village representatives, 49 hectares were sold; and then the village representatives meeting approved the sale of another 180 hectares for more than 6 million hectares. All those transactions are in the books."
As for his own job, Chen did not seem to care. "Ever since being elected village committee director in 1998, I have done my job. The recall campaign is just stirred up by individual villagers. I did not stop them, because I want to understand the villagers' real opinion about me." Chen had been the Taishi village committee director from 1998 to 2001, the village party chairman from 2002 to 2004, and this year he doubled as the director and secretary. "I face a lot of work pressure. I don't want to be the director."
Chen also showed the report the books for the month of June for Taishi Village. "Who says the books were not published? They have been posted." In the public notice board at the village committee office, the reporter saw that the financial reports were posted.
Village representative Feng Weinan said: "We are acting rationally to recall Chen Jinsheng. We are not saying that he is corrupt. It is just that he is incompetent."
The villagers also pointed out: "Take the June financial report. Our village took in 551,260.43 RMB but spent 663,353.91 RMB for a loss of more than 80,000 RMB. Such losses occur frequently. According to the financial statement, our village has a cumulative debt of 10,871,868.60 RMB."
As to why Chen Jinsheng was elected in April this year, the villagers said that they did not have a good sense about the law back then and many people did not pay attention to village affairs.
(September 12, 2005) At 9:00 am this morning, the Panyu government mobilized 63 police vehicles and almost 1,000 riot police officers and security personnel to enter Taishi Village and forcibly remove the safe in the budget room and all other financial document in the village committee office. During the process, the police directed high-pressured water hoses on a fire engine at the elderly women who were there to protect the documents, causing several injuries. Forty-eight persons were arrested.
(September 13, 2005) Guo Feixiong, a renowned activist who had been giving legal help to the Taishi villagers, disappeared on this day. No one has been able to contact him.
(September 15, 2005) (via ChineseNewsNet)
On this day, the Panyu government officially classified this incident as one in which villagers who did not understand the truth were fooled by people with "ulterior motives" to engage in activities of "illegal assembly." It said that the demonstrations, sit-in's and hunger strikes have the result of disrupting social stability.
Still, the Panyu government announced that there were will be an election, and the villagers will get to elect seven members to serve on the committee to manage the recall vote and, if necessary, an election for a new village committee director afterwards. However, all the candidates were current village officials.
Guangzhou Radio broadcast interviews with the villagers: "I don't support the seven. It's not only me, because many villagers won't support them." The villager said, "I don't trust these seven. I want to choose someone else. The villagers said that the seven candidates were either party secretaries or women's association directors, and '"officials always protect each other.'"
Since the villagers threatened to boycott the elections because they refused to choose "puppets", the government finally agreed to let the villagers nominate another seven representatives. The vote was on the basis of one vote per household. Each vote was secret in that "the writing down of the choice and the casting of the ballot will be done in secret without anyone else seeing it."
(September 16, 2005) (via ChineseNewsNet)
At 8am, more than 100 police officers arrived at Taishi Village and positioned themselves in various locations. Several policemen were at the village entrance, ready to inspect the identification of "suspicious persons." Around Taishi Elementary School, where the votes were cast, there were many police officers patrolling the scene. Some villagers refused to participate in the voting because they objected to the government's behavior.
At just after 10am, the activist Lu Banglie showed up and was arrested by the police. He has been subsequently released.
When the votes were counted in the afternoon, the government announced that there were 581 votes, of which 464 votes were valid and 117 were declared invalid.
At 1:30pm, there tallying of the results began. Each ballot was read out. All the seven candidates nominated by the villagers themselves were elected, ranging between 251 and 270 votes, all exceeding the 50% mark among the valid votes. At 6:48pm, these seven were pronounced the winners. At 6:50pm, the election process was declared to be over and done with.
Who are the seven? A 30-something military veteran; a teacher's wife; a small enterpreneur who sells sugar cane and fruit; a farmer; a factory worker; a motorcycle cab driver. In summary, all grassroots people and no officials.
There will now be a recall referendum, in a manner to be decided by the newly elected committee of seven.
(September 16, 2005) (via VOA)
According to a town government worker, this was a simple recall of village officials, but the villagers chose to lock down the village office illegally. The government has audited the books and found no problems. He also said that the Chinese government was willing to learn about democracy, but the villagers have little legal knowledge and are being manipulated by overseas organizations and special financial interests.
The worker said: "We are willing to learn the American or European type of democracy. That is not the problem. But you people have better education and you know the law. Here, they don't know the law and they don't have education. They don't even know how to write or stamp their names. If someone tells them to go and fight, they go and fight. Do you know who is doing the fighting? 60, 70 year old women, all woman, old and infirmed. Someone else is behind these old and infirmed people. There are several individuals behind the scenes. Three or four young people. The boss gives them money to start a revolution. They give 50 RMB for a night's work and 10 RMB for a day's work. What is going on!?"
Reporter: "Do you have proof?"
Government worker: "We do. They have admitted it. We have identified the boss."
Reporter: "Who is the boss?"
Government worker: "We have lots of proof. We have found out that you overseas people have used money to get the villagers to create social chaos."
(September 14, 2005) The People's Daily republished an opinion piece in Huanan News that gave a positive review of the Taishi incident. This is akin to official blessing by the central government.
The key paragraph is this: There are two key points, which are quite refreshing: one, the idea that the people should recall an official; two, that they should use legal procedures. No matter who is right or wrong between the villagers and the official, there is one comforting point in that these rural villagers know how to use legal procedures to recall an unpopular villager official. This shows that in certain rural parts of Guangdong, there is the embryonic signs of a democratic environment built upon rationality and legality.
The closing sentence was: The Taishi recall is representative because it sets a model for rural village self-rule in the Pearl River Delta.
(September 16, 2005)
Here is Lu Banglie's account of his arrest.
On September 16, I was observing the voting at the elementary school in Taishi. At around 930am, two plainclothesmen came up to me. Without producting any identification for themselves, they grabbed my arms and wanted to see my identity card. I showed them my ID. They wanted me to go with them. I told them that I am a People's Congress representative from Zijaing City and I showed that the proof. Meanwhile, the villagers surrounded us. One of the men made a telephone call and they let me go.
At 11am, I went out of the school and another policeman stopped and wanted to see my identity card. I gave it to him. He looked at it and put it in his pocket. At that time, four to five plainclothesmen came up and tried to drag me away. I started to shout and I grabbed the back of a motorcycle. The men wrestled with me; someone was digging at me with is fingers; another was trying to free my grip on the motorcycle; still others were pulling me away by the feet. Finally, they dragged me away and I lost a shoe during the process. I was shoved into a police car and then they drove away to arrive at the Panyu District public security bureau detention center.
Two police men then came to speak to me: "We invited you here and we hope that you will cooperate with our investigation." I said: "You forcefully and illegally took me here. You have deprived me of my personal freedom." They said: "Have we deprived you of your personal freedom? You can walk around." I said: "Then why does deprivation of personal freedome mean to you?" They said: "You are not wearing hand and ankle cuffs." I got mad and said: "I'm a People's Congress representative from Zijiang City, Hubei province. I will remain silent from now on and I will refuse to eat or drink."
They said that it was illegal for me not to cooperate with the public security bureau, it was illegal to remain silent and it was illegal to refuse food or water. I smirked, and then I ignored whatever they had to say. They brought me water and a boxed lunch, which I refused.
At around 2pm, they came with two "summons" and wanted me to sign. I refused and I went back to my nap.
I took a piece of paper and I wrote down "Go to toilet" and they accompanied me there. Then a policeman said, "Lu Banglie, you think you are tough because you won't talk, eat or drink. Let see if you not going to the toilet. So I got up, went to the corner of the room and I act as if I was going to urinate. He said: "This is how a People's COngress representative behaves. Fine, fine, I'll get someone to take a photograph." I wrote "If you won't let me go to the toilet, I'll do that." He wiped the paper off the desk without looking at it. I picked up the paper and put it on the desk again. He stormed out angrily. The other policeman gave me a thumbs-up sign. Then they asked me if I knew Guo Feixiong. I ignored them.
At 8:30pm, several more policemen came in and they said that they will release me. I wrote on the paper: "One, where are we going? Two, you must compensate me for my lost shoe and have the doctor examine me (for the scratches on my hands and arms). You must take me to where you arrested me, or else I'll fight on."
They went out and came back in 30 minutes to say that they agreed with my demands. They took me to the hospital. The doctor asked me how I got injured, and I told him. He gave me some disinfectants for my scratches and made a written record. I wanted him to give me some medicine, but he said that only detainees can get medicine. So I said that I don't want to stay a few days to get that, and we laughed.
Then they wanted me to sign the "summons". I refused. I said, "You arrested me at 11am and then you show me the 'summons' at 2pm." So they did not insist, but they wanted me to sign a release document to show that I was released. I said that I will do that after they get me to the designated place. They agreed.
At 9:20pm, we left in a public security bureau vehicle and headed back to Taishi Village. At 21:35pm, we stopped and the police bought me a pair of shoes for 100 RMB. At 9:50pm, we arrived at Taishi Village. They were too embarrassed to drop me off at the exact spot. I let them off. I signed the document to prove that I was released. Then I headed towards the Village Committee office.
According to Apple Daily, two recall committee members said that they have received anonymous threatening phone calls. Chen Yinping, the wife of a school teacher, had been subject to tremendous pressure. Allegedly, the school leaders had told her husband that he will lose his job if his wife attends the recall committee meeting scheduled on October 7.
According to Ming Pao, two out of seven of the elected members of the recall committee have resigned on September 20 as well as public declare that they will not participate. Chen Yinping resigned due to "health reasons" and she will be replaced by someone who was on the candidate list (i.e. a current village committee member).
According to Apple Daily, five out of the seven recall committee members have resigned. Wu Zixiong, who won the highest number of votes, had even left the village to go into hiding.
(Xici Hutong) Letter of thanks from Ai Xiaoming. September 26, 2005.
On Monday, September 26, just after 4pm, I and lawyers Guo Yan and Tang Yinling interviewed their clients and the families. A team of about 10 village security persons dressed in camouflage followed the lawyers. The villagers fled at the sight and nobody spoke to the lawyers. Villager Feng Qiusheng and his mother are under arrest and his father could not be located. Villager Feng Weinan and his father are under arrest and his mother could not be located. The lawyers asked the neighbors.
At that moment, a man who claims to be a 'villager' and who hassled a People's Daily reporter yesterday came up to the lawyers. There were several other men on the side. The two teams of camouflage-clad men followed and some motorcycle riders were in front.
When we went past the Taishi Village office, the man suddenly flung several buckets of dirty water at us. My back and Lawyer Guo's back were wet. Lawyer Tang's briefcase was partially wet. Lawyers Tang and Guo kept calling 110, but no police came.
When we got out of the village to the Panxin Road, Lawyer Guo went on her motorcycle to get a taxi while lawyer Guo and I walked down the road slowly. As Lawyer Tang kept calling the police, the camouflage-clad team kept following us. When he stopped, the team also stopped. The motorcycles were a little bit ahead.
When Lawyer Guo came back with the taxicab, we heard that she was being chased and beaten by the pursuing motorcycle riders. She had hit with a stick on her leg and she fell. Then she was hit with a stick on her head and back. Fortunately, Lawyer Guo is well trained (translator's note: she had military police training). She ran towards a crowded area and she got on a public bus. She got off two stops later and she found a taxicab.
We did not imagine that our taxicab would be surrounded by the thugs when we reached the Panyu Shawan bridge toll booth. One motorcyclist used a steel chain to break the front window and the right-hand-side window. The entire glass pane on the right fell and hurt Lawyer Guo's hand. We were trapped in the car and we were helpless against the attacks. Lawyers Tang and Guo held onto the car doors and everybody screamed for help. There were cars passing on both sides. But the police did not come and nobody stopped them.
After a while, someone came out of the toll station to remove the motorcycles and the taxicab driver drove towards Guangzhou.
When we reached the Guangzhou border, I telephone Teacher Qiu who is the Secretary General of the Chinese Department of Zhongshan University where I teach. Teacher Qiu immediately contacted the security office at Zhongshan University. We went straight in the car to the Guangzhou City Public Security Bureau and we stopped at the gate to report. The Zhongshan University security office director and Teacher Qiu came right over along with the Xingang Street police station officers. Then we got out off the taxicab and we reported the case at the Yuexiu Station of the Guangzhou Public Secrutiy Bureau. Then the police cars from the Zhongshan University and the Xingang station took the lawyers and me to our homes.
When I got back, it was nearly 11pm. I wrote this note quickly and I thank you for your concern. Regards.
(Sing Tao, Apple Daily) October 1, 2005.
On the day before yesterday, there was a notice from the Taishi Village Director Recall Committee. It was pointed out that out of the original signatories to the recall petition, 396 have now withdrawn. Since the remaining number of 188 signatures do not reach the legal requirement (=20% of the approxiately 1,500 eligible voters), the original petition is "not longer in effect."
According to a villager named Guo, after the village recall committee was elected, the local officials invited the seven committee members for a talk. On the same night, six of the seven resigned; the last one resigned one week later. Ironically, although all seven committee members have resigned, the notice still came out in the name of the Taishi VIllage Director Recall Committee.
At the same time, officials from Panyu and Yuwotou came to 'mobilize' the villagers to withdraw their signatures: "the condition was the release of the several dozen friends and relatives who had been arrested." Quantitiavely, for every 21 villagers who withdraw, one arrestee will be released. At the moment there are at least villagers under criminal detention and more than ten under administrative detention.
(Radio Free Asia) Chinese Authorities Arrest Rights Lawyer in ‘Test-Case’ Taishi Village. Mei Kin-kwan and Liang Jing. October 5, 2005.
Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have formally arrested a human rights lawyer who had been helping local villagers in a hard-fought land dispute with local government, lawyers said. Guo Feixiong “disappeared” following violent clashes between residents of Taishi Village in Guangzhou’s Panyu District in mid-September. He has been held under administrative detention in the district after helping villagers mount a legal campaign to have their elected village chief removed from office, lawyers said.
“This afternoon at 6:07 p.m., I received notification from officer Hu at the Panyu police station that Guo’s arrest had been approved and now had taken formal effect,” lawyer Guo Yan told RFA’s Cantonese service. “The document requested that I get in touch with his legal representative. I have already alerted Gao Zhisheng in Beijing that our bail application made on Sept. 26 has not been approved,” she said. Gao is head of the Beijing-based Zhisheng law firm and Guo’s employer.
According to local sources, Guo is continuing his hunger strike at the Shawan Detention Center in Panyu. He refused all food and water from the first day of his detention, and has already been given emergency medical treatment and force-feeding by detention center staff.
In an interview with RFA's Mandarin service, Guo's sister Yang Maoping said one lawyer had managed to see Guo since the announcement. "He made an assessment of his health, saying that he was already experience some irregularities in his breathing," she told reporter Yan Ming.
Villagers expressed shock at the news. "I don't know why they treated him this way. All he did was speak up on behalf of some ordinary people," said the wife of villager He Jingchao who has been detained since last month's crackdown.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou-based literature professor Ai Xiaoming, who wrote an outraged open letter to Premier Wen last month protesting the rough treatment of elderly protesters by the authorities during the clashes, was uncharacteristically silent. “I think that there is actually very little space for free debate on this subject, and now there’s really very little left to talk about,” Ai told RFA. “If there are no guarantees for personal safety, then there’s nothing to say,” she added, in an apparent hint that she had received threats herself.
(ObserveChina) Letter from Professor Ai Xiaoming to a friend. October 8, 2005.
This afternoon, the Southern Metropolis Daily held an afternoon meeting to communicate the comments by the provincial propaganda department. Supposedly, Guo Feixiong, Lu Banglie and myself are named as the behind-the-scene illegal incitors of the Taishi affair. Supposedly, the September 12 photograph in the Southern Metropolis Daily of the 80-year-old woman speaking on rock pile (which clearly said that the event occurred on July 31) was orchestrated by me. This is all nonsense because they did not even get the basic facts straight. Prior to September 4, I had not even been in Taishi Village. That photograph was taken by the newspaper's photographer and credited as such. I completely cannot understand why they want to do something so illogical. My insider friends tell me more than once to prepare for the worst. I think the preparations are for the public security bureau to bring me in. Therefore, I am telling my friends about the worst preparations. Now that things have reached this stage, I cannot even get angry because I feel this is too absurd.
(New Century Net) On October 5, the website Gender Education Forum at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou was shut down by the Guangzhou public security bureau. The website was run by Ai Xiaoming, who was named as one of the three black hands at Taishi village along with Guo Feixiong and Lu Banglie. The website is for students and has little or nothing about Taishi village. After Ai Xiaoming was assaulted in Taishi village on 9/26, the Zhongshan University security office has instructed all BBS forums inside the university not to discuss the Ai Xiaoming case.
(New Century Net) On October 10, the website Viewpoint (觀點) was informed by telephone from the Guangdong province News Office to clean out all mentions of Taishi village by 10/12 or face shutdown.
(SCMP) 'They were working themselves into a frenzy' Leu Siew Ying. October 10, 2005.
Radio France Internationale reporter Abel Segretin and I went to Taishi last Friday to find out why residents suddenly abandoned a bid to recall their village chief. During previous visits I had been detained twice - the windscreens and windows of my taxi were smashed by paid thugs. A lecturer and two lawyers had the same harrowing experience three weeks later, so I knew I had to be careful. Segretin and I agreed that we would not resist if caught, but we did not get any further than a roadblock set up by the local authorities.
A few men with red armbands marked "security" forced us off our motorbikes. Straight away, another 20 people closed in on us - some wearing army camouflage - and asked for our identity papers. We asked them who they were and a well-dressed man said "villagers".
I told him I was not obliged to identify myself to anyone but the police. He said if we did not show him our identity papers he would leave and would not be able to control the others. He also revealed that he knew we had got out of a taxi in Shiqi to continue our journey by motorcycle.
The man then called police while Segretin asked why we could not enter the village. People started shouting, saying we had caused trouble for them and cost them their livelihoods. One tried to force us to sit down, while two others grabbed Segretin's forearms. When he pulled himself free, I could see red marks they had left. One man punched him in the waist and another whacked me across the head with a blow that sent me tumbling forward. Fortunately, I was wearing a broad-brimmed peasant's straw hat that cushioned the blow, so I was more shocked than hurt.
I was trembling and kept telling my colleague we had to leave. We tried to, but the men stopped us. I told him not to talk to them because the mood had turned very ugly and I could see that they were working themselves into a frenzy. I felt they were waiting for us to provoke them, and I was terrified that my companion would get badly beaten - and that I would be next.
I have reported on China for seven years and this was the first time I have been beaten, although I have been detained numerous times.
(Libération) La presse étrangère muselée. Abel Segrétin. October 10, 2005.
Les mercenaires recrutés par les autorités locales ne se contentent pas de tabasser les villageois mécontents et les avocats venus les aider. Trois journalistes étrangers venus enquêter sur place ont aussi été molestés en deux jours. Il est très rare en Chine de s'en prendre à des étrangers, ces violences montrent à quel point les autorités donnent carte blanche au chef du village pour faire régner l'ordre chez lui. Lors de notre passage, une vingtaine d'hommes à l'allure mafieuse nous ont retenus et malmenés durant vingt minutes. Tentant plusieurs fois de partir, nous avons été frappés et projetés au sol. Deux policiers alertés par les hommes de main nous ont arrêtés juste au moment où le cercle se resserrait sur nous. Au commissariat, les officiers ont refusé d'enregistrer notre plainte. Puis six membres du bureau de la propagande nous ont expliqué la «vraie» version du conflit, selon laquelle les villageois ont spontanément cessé de se plaindre. Ils nous ont ensuite donné un exemplaire du quotidien officiel de Canton en nous disant : «Tout a déjà été écrit en détail, vous n'avez plus besoin de travailler sur cette affaire.» Le lendemain soir, un journaliste du Guardian s'est lui aussi fait frapper à Taishi par des hommes de main et un Chinois qui l'aidait a été laissé pour mort. On est sans nouvelle de cet accompagnateur.
(October 8, 2005) The source here is Boxun, which is not always reliable. Anyway, if true, this will be a huge international affair that the State Council cannot afford to ignore. The one paragraph English-language release appeared at 1020pm, Saturday, October 8. One hour later, you can read the translation of the detailed Chinese item here: Last evening, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a reporter with The Guardian, arrived in Guangzhou with his assistant Mr. Chen to work on the Taishi Village official recall story. Today, he went there accompanied by the Zhijiang City (Hubei province) People's Congress delegate Lu Banglie who has been active in the case. By 7pm, Lu Banglie who did not intend to enter the village had still not returned and Joffe-Walt could not be reached by telephone either. The friend waiting outside the village was concerned and telephoned villagers. At that moment, Benjamin Joffe-Walt also sent a SMS to his British colleague: "Our car is being surrounded and we are being attacked!" The villagers then told the friend: "They are inside Taishi Village, being assaulted. The foreigner is near death. It is pitiful. Please call for help!" "The attackers are security personnel hired by the village party secretary at 100 RMB per day. Their job is to assault all outsiders and foreigners in the village! Every day, they drink alcohol, beat and arrest people. This is black terror!"
(October 9, 2005) Radio Free Asia via Boxun. In the evening of October 8, the lawyer Guo Yan who represents several Taishi village residents, received an SMS at 8pm-9pm about Lu Banglie and a foreigner reporter being assaulted. Lu Banglie was more seriously injured and is in Datong Hospital. At 11:38pm, Guo received a message that told her about the names of the individuals who assaulted Lu and the foreign reporter. There are no details about the extent of the injuries, but it is said to be serious, "even fatal." Another villager sent an SMS about how the foreigner has departed safely. He was assaulted, fell into the banana field and then chased around.
At 1am on 10/9, the RFA reporter interviewed Jonathan Watts, who is the Beijing-based reporter for The Guardian. Watts said: "I don't know the details. I understand that he is safe and unhurt. That is the information that I got when we spoke an hour ago. There was news that he was assaulted, but he told me that he is unhurt. I am concerned about him. Benjamin wanted to enter the village on 10/8, but he could not get in and his car was surrounded by a group of people. He wanted to call outside, but his phone was cut off."
(Interfax) Journalists beaten during Taishi investigations, one man killed. October 9, 2005.
A journalist with the British newspaper, The Guardian, was beaten and had his mobile phone smashed last night during an attempt to visit the village of Taishi in Guangdong Province, the scene of an acrimonious dispute over a lucrative land deal. According to information received by Interfax, a Chinese citizen was killed in the incident.
Benjamin Joffe-Walt, the newspaper's Shanghai correspondent, was warned by residents of neighboring villages that journalists and outsiders visiting Taishi were being beaten by thugs connected to the local police. However, he proceeded to Taishi by car.
(Reuters AlertNet) China activist beaten, missing -activists say. By Lindsay Beck. October 9, 2005.
A Chinese activist was missing on Sunday after being badly beaten when he and a foreign journalist went to a village in southern China, other activists and friends said.
They said Lu Banglie and Benjamin Joffe-Walt of the Guardian newspaper in Britain were stopped by a group including people in police and army uniforms and about 30 in plainclothes when they neared Taishi village in Guangdong province on Saturday night. "They pulled him (Lu) out and beat him unconscious. Even after he was unconscious they continued beating him for about 10 minutes," said Jonathan Watts, the Guardian's Beijing-based correspondent. The uniformed officers left before the attack, he added.
Joffe-Walt, based in Shanghai, was roughed up but escaped without serious injury, but Lu has not been seen or heard from since Saturday night. "No one has heard from Lu. We're extremely concerned about what has happened to him," Watts said.
- (The Guardian) Mob attacks key Chinese democrat. By Jonathan Watts. October 10, 2005.
- (The Guardian) Groundswell of protest feared by party officials. By Jonathan Watts. October 10, 2005.
- (The Guardian) 'They beat him until he was lifeless' By Benjamin Joffe-Walt. October 10, 2005.
- (The Guardian) Activist found alive after beating by mob. By Jonathan Watts. October 11, 2005.
- (The Guardian) Chinese activist vows to continue, despite beating. By Jonathan Watts. October 12, 2005.
- The Case of Benjamin Joffe-Walt Chinese blogger Anti demands The Guardian fire Benjamin Joffe-Walt and apologize for the fantasy report on the beating of Lu Banglie.
(Boxun, October 11, 2005) The following information came from VOA reporter Yang Ming (杨明 ). According to Yao Lifa, who is a Zhijiang City people's congress delegate, "Lu Banglie came back from Guangzhou to Yichang by airplane and then was sent to Zhijiang City. He arrived at his home around 4pm in the company of the local police." According to Lu's sister, "He appeared physically alright. He seemed to be able to speak and take care of everything else. He took off his clothes and washed them himself. He said, 'Today is market day, but I won't be able to help you.'"
(Boxun) Interview of Lu Banglie by Zhang Min (Radio Free Asia), October 10, 2005.
The Hubei province Zhijiang City people's congress delegate Lu Banglie was attacked in Taishi village by unknown persons but has returned back to Zhijiang City. He stayed at his sister's home around 4-5pm on October 10. That evening, he was interviewed by me at a friend's place.
Lu Banglie related his journey to Taishi Village with The Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt and assistant Mr. Chen: "He said that he needed to go into the village and check out the actual situation. At around 7-8pm or 8-9pm, we were in the village. The car was about 300-400 meters away from the Taishi village committee office. At a corner, the car was blocked by several motorcycles. We wanted to go to the village committee office but many people came and surrounded the car. They would not let us proceed any further. We said that we would back up the car, but they wouldn't not let us do that either. They looked at us and pointed to me, as if they recognized me.
Q: How many people were in the car?
A: Four people, including the driver. This was a taxi that we hired. I did not ask the name of the driver. On the car too were Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Mr. Chen. The people outside the car were questioning the two reporters sitting behind. The people up front then opened the car door. I sat in the front and they dragged me out. They hit my head with their fists and kicked me all over the body. I fell to the ground and then I passed out. Later on, they poured water on me and I was startled. I only knew that someone poured water on me. I don't know what happened afterwards.
Q: Where did you wake up?
A: When I woke up, the car was almost in Changsa. (Comment from aside) They said that they were members of the Panyu People's Congress standing committee. There were five or six people.
Q: How were your injuries?
A: At the time, my head hurt. I was dizzy. So I slept all the way to Zhijiang. I threw up several times, including only water. It was difficult to bear. They wanted to give me something to eat. I said that I couldn't eat because I would surely throw up again. I said that I would eat after we stop. But they did not offer me anything when we stopped. At around 6-7pm on October 9, they took me to a hotel in Zhijiang City and contacted the Zhijiang City People's Congress standing committee. Then they just ignored me. Afterwards, they arranged for two Bailizhou officials to take me to the hospital at Bailizhou. I did not eat anything all day.
Q: What was the diagnosis of your condition at the hospital? Can you tell us what the hospital said and how you personally felt?
A: After the examination, the hospital said that I had quite a bit of muscle injury, including two spots that were bleeding. I had bleeding on my upper arm and then the shoulder ... the principal diagnosis was "muscle injury" as well as "external head injuries." That was at the Bailizhou hospital. But the examination at Zhijiang basically said that there were no real problems. But I still feel more foggy than before. I am hurting all over, but there are not too many visible signs. Therefore, I think that they were pretty good at beating people. I cannot eat much right now. I can eat a little bit, slowly. I can control my movements and thinking. My body aches, but my will power can control the aches.
Q: Before you passed out, what do you remember the scene was like? How many people were assaulting you?
A: When my hair was pulled, there were five or six people beating me. I don't know how many more after that.
Q: According to what you know, within your group, was anyone else injured other than yourself?
A: They started with me. I don't know what happened afterwards.
Q: How were your attackers dressed? Who do you think they are?
A: At the time, I was not sure. They seemed to be dressed in ordinary clothes. Later on, I heard the person from their National People's Congress standing committee said: "Those were peasants." He also said: "Do you think that the peasants over there are more violent? They are somewhat more barbaric?" At the time, I was still dizzy and I told them: "This was not peasant savagery. This was government savagery." At the time, they smiled.
Q: After having gone through this incident, what are thinking?"
A: I think if the government over there can use these types of high-pressure tactics to treat the people and their legal actions to protect their own rights, then this is too disheartening! Really! If the Chinese peasants are suppressed and abused like this and the legal paths are closed off, it will be a tragedy in the end. When those oppressed people have nowhere to do, they may resort to violence. As for me, if I cannot go the legal way, I might have to resort to violence in the end. That would be tragic.
Q: What will you be doing? Is there anything that you want to do? Will you continue to care about Taishi village? How will you show your concern?
Q: I will continue to be concerned about Taishi village. I will still stay within the boundaries of the law to offer them assistance, support and care. I hope that the Taishi village incident will gain the high attention of the central government which should give support to the people's legal efforts to protect their rights in accordance with the law and to stop the savage actions of the local government. I hope that the central government will offer support and assistance.
Lu Banglie has not yet returned to his own home, because he did not want to alarm his 80-year-old mother. He just stopped by at his sister's home but he did not tell her what happened so as not to get them worried. He is staying with a friend. He wants to recover better before returning home.
October 11, 2005. (Xinhua; in translation) At the regular press conference of the Foreign Ministry, a reporter asked: There have been some conflicts in Taishi Village near Guangzhou. It was reported that a foreign reporter was attacked. How does the Foreign Ministry look at this?
Spokesperson Kong Quan:
In this inicdent, two foreign reporters went there to investigate without applying beforehand. We express our regret that they broke the regulations. It is precisely these reporters who usually criticize China for not having the rule of law. Yet, when they look at China's legal requirements, they led the way in disobeying htem. This is inappropriate. Of course, during the process of correcting this illegal act, the Chinese police is not allowed to employ rough tactics. That is not permitted.
Generally speaking, we hope that the foreign media can report more about China fully. We do not kind you criticizing China and the Chinese media have criticized China quite a bit. But the issue is that you still have to follow the regulations and apply to investigate accordingly. My understanding was that these reporters concealed their identities and they went in disguise. If you think that you are open and honest, why won't you say that you are investigating news? If you want to understand the villager rights issue, why do you say that you are investigating family planning, environmental protection and other unrelated matters? The police did not employ any rough tactics. They only interrogated them. When the reporters identified themselves as such, the police pointed out the existing problem and sent these two reporters back to their Guangzhou hotel by car. If you have definitive evidence, we welcome you to give that to us and I will forward it to the appropriate departments and ask them to make further investigations.
[Footnote: It appears that the question was about Benjamin Joffe-Walt (The Guardian), but the response was about Abel Segrétin (Radio France ) and Leu Siew Ying (SCMP).]
(RFA via Boxun) October 13, 2005.
According to villagers interviewed on October 12 by Radio Free Asia's Cantonese service, four villagers were arrested for assisting The Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Hubei Zhijiang City people's congress representative Lu Banglie.
Another villager told RFA that eyewitnesses said that one of the attackers was the leader of one of the production brigades in Taishi village. "He is a brigade leader and he supports the village director. He is the brigade leader and so this affect his personal interests."
(New Century Net) On October 12, a villager named Feng told a reporter: "Among those who assaulted Lu Banglie were village cadres, including the production brigade leader Chen Canhua. He is a member of the village committee, so the recall affected his direct interests. He makes money by beating people up and he has a relative with the public security bureau. He is the person who poured dirty water on Ai Xiaoming and the two lawyers. Anyway, there are people keeping watch in the village day and night. Some of them are village cadres and there are some from outside that I don't know."
(October 15, 2005) (Southcn.com via ChineseNewsNet) Q&A between Panyu district government news spokesperson and a Nanfang Daily reporter.
Q1. Concerning the official recall issue at Taishi village, there are various things being said by netizens, and the overseas media have even more things to say. Please tell us how the issue of Taishi village came about? What did the local government do during the process of dealing with this problem?
A: In mid-April, during the third village committee election, Chen Jinsheng was successfully re-elected. At the start of May, Taishi village held an election for the village team, and villager Liang Shusheng was elected as the leader of the seventh brigade. Before that election, Liang Shusheng promised that if elected, he would give each villager an extra 10,000 RMB and a plot of land for residences. After he was elected, the villagers demanded that he fulfill his promise. So Liang Shusheng and others went to the village committee many times to demand the distribution of the funds from the land acquisitions. The village committee explained that they could not distribute funds that came from collective land acquisition by policy. Afterwards, Liang Shusheng and others demanded the village committee compensate them for about 103 RMB per person as "compensation fees for working hard." Of course, the village committee rejected this demand. After their unreasonable demands were rejected, Liang Shusheng and others began to seek out "outside help" to aid, assist and plot on recalling village committee director Chen Jinsheng.
From the end of July, Liang Shusheng and others claimed that Chen Jinsheng engaged in "bribery during the re-election campaign" as well as "illegally selling land back during this previous term" and "not explaining where the funds from the land sales went." For these reasons, they organized the villagers to recall the village committee director with 25 "problems" among the village committee cadres. But it was not until September that they submitted a valid original document for the recall of Taishi Village committee director Chen Jinsheng with the signature of 892 villagers. Under the direction of the District Civil Affairs Bureau, the town government validated the signatures in accordance with the law. After checking, 584 villager signatures were deemed valid, more than the required number for a recall. Thus the legal process for recalling the current village committee director was on the way.
During this period, about 100 villagers occupied the village office by force in the name of "protecting the accounting ledgers." This cause village committee business to become totally paralyzed. Also, more than 100 villagers went to the east gate of the District Government Office to sit in silent protest on the sidewalk while holding protest banners. When the public security bureau detained individual instigators and organizers, a small number of people persuaded 150 villagers to surround the police cars with the law enforcement officers for more than 2 hours. According to some villagers, the reason why they participated in the recall of the village committee director and took over the village committee office was because they heard the rumor that each of them will receive 30,000 RMB if the recall was successful. During the entire process, the district and town governments proceeded strictly according to the law to protect the democratic rights of the villagers. At the same time, they communicated the relevant laws and points of attention to the villagers and lead the villagers to express their own wills and demands in accordance with the law. Concerning the problems about the village committee cadres brought up by some villagers, Panyu District paid a high degree of attention and deal with them earnestly in order to protect the villagers' right to know and democratic governing power. The District government sent out a work team to audit the village financial activities, especially with respect to the problems brought up by some villagers. On 9/20, Panyu District announced the results of the audit and investigation to the Taishi Village party members, brigade leaders and village representatives. On 9/21, the Panyu District announced the same to more than 500 households.
Q2. It is said that some Taishi villagers wanted the recall because they did not know where the funds from the land acquisition in the village went. What were the results of the Taishi village financial audit? Are there financial problems with the current village committee?
A: Concerning the 25 problems brought up by Liang Shusheng about the village cadres, the District party committee and the District government formed a special work group and made a careful audit. They made a serious audit of the financial situation of the village committee and they have announced the audit results to the villagers in a timely manner. The results showed that the majority of the "problems" did not exist. The basic conclusion: "All the audited items were clean; the recording of financial revenues was normal; the investigated problems were clear. There is no proof of anyone damaging collective interests while profiting for themselves."
Q3. Is the process that some villagers have used to recall the village committee director legal? How did the District government handle the demand for recall?
A: Concerning the motion to recall from the Taishi villagers, the District Civil Affairs Bureau respects the will of the villagers and follows the law strictly. On July 29, some villagers came to the District Civil Affairs Bureau to submit a photo-copy of a motion to recall with the signatures of 400 villagers. The District Civil Affairs Bureau comrade immediately communicated with the villagers, explained the relevant laws, showed them the required documents for the motion to recall and how to submit the motion to either the village party branch or the town government. At the beginning of September, when some villagers submitted the original copy of the motion to recall with signatures, the town government immediately posted a notice to announce the signature validation. After finding 584 valid signatures, which was more than legally required number, the town government recognized that the motion to recall was in effect and therefore initiated the process. According to the "Laws for Organizing Village Committees in the People's Republic of China", "Methods for Electing Village Committee Members in Guangdong Province", "(Trial) Methods for Implementing the Election of Village Committees in Guangdong Province" and other related regulations, the District Civil Affairs Bureau directed the town and village to earnestly set the schedule in the "Operational Guide to Recall the Village Committee Director." Thus, the election was held according to the law to elect a recall committee.
Q4. Overseas media reported that there were serious bloodsheds on August 16 and September 12. Please tell us what happened. Did the police employ violence during law enforcement?
A: From the night of August 3, about 100 villagers occupied the village committee office by force under the name of "protecting the accounting ledgers." This caused village committee business to come to a standstill. The government of Yuwotou organized to tell the people about the relevant laws. Afterwards, the Panyu District public security bureau issued a notice on August 13 to ask the villagers to follow the law and not to occupy the village committee office. On August 16, the Panyu public security bureau detained six individuals for organizing crowds to prevent the police from carrying out their duties. On August 12, Panyu District public security military police and other law enforcement personnel evicted the individuals who had been occupying the village office building for more than one month The personnel was lightly armed. When faced with the excessive behavior from some villagers, they did not fight back when hit and they did not curse back when scolded. Four police officers suffered slight injuries. During these two law enforcement activities, the relevant departments followed the law and there were no "violent and bloody activities" on the apart of the police as reported in the overseas media.
Q5. Of the 584 people who motioned for the recall originally, 396 withdrew their motion later on. Did the relevant departments apply pressure on the villagers?
A: On September 5, Feng Weinan and others submitted an original copy of a motion to recall Taishi Village committee director Chen Jinsheng with the signature of 892 villagers. The town government issued an immediate notice to validate those signatures. After validation, 584 signatures were deemed to be valid and that is more than the legally required number. This started the legal process for the recall of the village committee director. From September 12 to 16, the Panyu District government sent out a work team to audit the finances of the village and conducted special studies of the "25 problems" brought up by the villagers. At the same time, the Panyu district Civil Affairs Bureau directed the village to follow the law to form a recall committee with seven villagers.
The Panyu District announced the audit and investigation results to the Taishi Village party members, brigade leaders and village representatives on September 20 and to more than 500 households on September 26. The results of the audit and investigation showed that most of the "problems" did not exist. The basic conclusion was that they did not discover any "situations of individuals damaging collective interests for personal profits." Faced with the facts, most villagers realized that the original reasons for the recall no longer existed and therefore told the village recall committee that they wished to withdraw the motion. Between September 26 and 28, the village recall committee validated the requests from those villagers who wished to withdraw and confirmed that out of 584 original villagers who signed the recall motion, 396 have requested to withdraw. Thus, the final confirmed number of valid signatures was only 188, which is fewer than one-fifth of the total number of voters in the village (1,502). Therefore, the recall motion no longer met the legal requirement. Thus, the Taishi village recall committee declared that the motion to recall village committee director Chen Jinsheng was no longer in effect. As one can see, the above process was legal. The villagers withdrew their motion after they saw the results of the audit and investigation and they did so of their free will. The government departments had insisted all along to respect the will of the people and acted in accordance with the law. No pressure had been applied to the villagers.
Q6: The overseas media have recently reported that several groups of foreign reporters came to Taishi village to gather information but were obstructed and assaulted. It was even reported that the Guardian (UK) reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Hubei province Zhijiang people's congress representative Lu Banglie were beaten to death. Please tell us what were the true circumstances?
A: Around 8:40pm on September 8, Lu Banglie brought two foreigners into Taishi village in a rented car. They were stopped near the Taishi Secondary School by some villagers of Taishi. The villagers warned Lu Banglie not to stir up trouble in the village because they won't listen to them anymore. They told the group to leave immediately, but the Lu trio attempted to force their way in and there was some pushing and shoving. At 8:50pm, the Yuwotou police received a report and proceeded to the scene.
For safety reasons, the three individuals were taken back to the town government building. After interrogation, the two foreigners were identified as the Guardian (UK)'s Shanghai-based correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt and an employee of a Shanghai-based translation company by the name of Tang Guoye (唐國葉). Since they were not able to show any documents of permission to gather information from the foreign affairs department, the department leader informed the two that it was illegal for them to gather information without the permission of the provincial and city foreign affairs departments. Afterwards, to ensure their safety, the town government provided a car to take these two foreigners back to the White Swan Hotel. These two foreigners were not hurt at all during the incident. Therefore, it was pure rumor to say that Benjamin Joffe-Walt was assaulted.
Since Lu Banglie claimed to be injured, the Yuwotou police station sent police officers to take Lu to the town hospital for a full physical examination including CT and other procedures. The doctors believed that Lu was normal except for some light scratches on his hands. As Lu was a representative of the people's congress, the relevant persons called the standing committee of the Zhijiang City people's congress. At 10:41pm, the Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee replied and asked the Panyu District people's congress to bring Lu Banglie back to Zhijiang City. The Panyu District people's congress then arranged for workers to take Lu back to Zhijiang.
At 730pm on September 9, Lu Banglie arrived at Zhijiang City in Hubei province. The Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee immediately arranged for Lu Banglie to be examined at the Bailizhou town hospital. On the morning of October 10, they brought Lu Banglie to the Zhijiang City People's Hospital for further examination while asking the legal medical expert of the Zhijiang City Public Security Bureau to be in attendance. After repeated examination, except for the legal medical expert identifying the light scratches on his arm (believed to have been caused during the pushing and shoving with the villagers when Lu insisted on entering), Lu was deemed to be normal otherwise. Afterwards, Lu Banglie signed his name on the town and city hospital examination results. Therefore, the "bloody incident" in which Lu Banglie was beaten or killed was fabricated.
Q7: After the motion to recall failed, have the Taishi villagers gone back to normal with respect to production? Will the local government take revenge against the villagers who participated in the recall as claimed by overseas media?
A: After the village election committee announced that recall was not longer in effect, most villagers have accepted the fact calmly because they believed this represents the will of the majority of the villagers. The results of the investigation have come out, the laws are clear, the truth is out and the basis for the recall no longer exists. Therefore, everyone naturally don't want to get involved in the recall anymore. Production and life in the village have returned to normal. If the villagers want to recall their village committee director, they only need to follow the law. The various levels of government will respect their wills and earnestly protect their legal rights. There is no issue of revenge later on. At the same time, the law enforcement departments will pursue the small group of people who organized and plotted to rouse the masses to cause trouble and disturb social order for ulterior motives.
October 18, 2005. (Boxun) At 9:28am, the Panyu District Sawan Police Station called lawyer Guo Yan: they have received the information of the police report filed by Ai Xiaoming, Guo Yan and Tang Yinling about their being attacked on September 26. They have also obtained the video tapes, but the motorcycles did not have license numbers and the images on the videotapes were fuzzy. Lawyer Guo replied that she has witnesses and the names and addresses of the suspects. If the police can guarantee the safety of the witnesses, then the case can be solved. The Sawan police promised to call back once they have considered that.
According to the witness, the suspects who attacked lawyer Guo Yan and others on September 26 were: Liang "X"-gui, from the sixth brigade at Dajian Village, Yuwotou Town; Liang "X"-fei, from the first brigade at Dajian Vilalge, Yuwotou Town; Chen "X"-hua and He "X"-tang, who directed the action at the scene; the commanding vehicles were Guangdong 0AA"XX"6 and Guangdong 0AA"XX"7'.
In addition, other witnesses point out that the same two individual Chen "X"-hua and He "X"-tang directed the attack against Lu Banglie on October 8 from vehicle with license number Guangdong A0"XX"72.
October 19, 2005. From village protest to national flashpoint. By Leu Siew Ying, South China Morning Post via AsiaMedia.
Taishi is a tiny village in the richest and seemingly most open province on the mainland and yet a legitimate attempt by its residents to oust their chief for corruption has been crushed with the help of gangsters.
The crackdown exposes the ambiguity of the central government's stance on democracy and underscores its fear that Taishi might have a domino effect in a region riddled with land-related corruption.
But Taishi is, at most, a localised corruption scandal that permeated the township government and is unlikely to implicate anyone in Guangzhou, much less in Guangdong or far away Beijing.
With a population of 2,000, Taishi is a 45-minute drive south of Guangzhou. Once a model village, its inhabitants complain of poverty, even though bustling shops, busy factories, thriving sugar cane farms and banana plantations stand on land they used to farm. Elderly women have been the hardest hit. They are unable to support themselves from the dividend income from leased properties and farmland, and have been forced to eke out a living by scavenging.
The villagers blame their plight on Chen Jinsheng , who was re-elected as village chief in April. Mr Chen garnered 60 per cent of the votes, but the poll came before allegations that he had embezzled funds from the village collective. On July 29 they launched a campaign to remove him from office by popular vote. During a three-month stand-off that followed, local authorities, using more than 1,000 police and water cannon, threw villagers in jail, seized ledger books and paid thugs to beat activists, lawyers and foreign reporters. They rejected the recall petition, then announced it had been accepted, only to announce soon afterwards that the villagers had given up their action. The people are now being held hostage in their own village.
Sources with close contacts with villagers say groups of cadres fanned out to visit each of the 500 households to make them sign the withdrawal document. "Every household has somebody who has been arrested. They were promised that their family members would be released if they signed, if not, they would go to jail for three to 10 years. The villagers are realistic, so they signed," one source said.
The family of Feng Weinan , one of the leaders arrested, received a notice saying power and water supplies to their apartment would be cut off. Other villagers were told they would lose their jobs, their children would not be able to go to school or they would be harassed by thugs. "Their wives were crying, so the men had to sign," said Lu Banglie , an activist who advised the villagers on recall procedures.
Mr Lu said cadres promised a household of four or five voters about half a hectare of land if they would spy for the village committee and help keep Mr Chen in power. The villagers were also told that lawyers and reporters had wrecked their economy and they would get no dividends this year. Previously, the committee that manages village assets paid each villager 1,000 yuan a year and claimed that Taishi was in debt.
A propaganda official from Yuwotou, the town that administers Taishi, told two foreign journalists that 396 villagers signed the withdrawal statement voluntarily after an audit of village accounts cleared Mr Chen. Only 188 refused to sign. Giving the reporters a copy of the Guangzhou Daily, he said: "Everything we want to say is here. You can also read about it in the Southern Metropolis News and other newspapers. There is no need to report on this any more. We will not give any more interviews."
The official statement said the recall petition was legal, a move that analysts said gave the authorities justification to break the blockade of the village office and seize account books allegedly incriminating Mr Chen on the grounds that the villagers had broken the law and obstructed village government.
The next move was to identify the "black hands" behind the unrest: Mr Lu, Yang Maodong -- a prolific writer and activist better known as Guo Feixiong -- and Ai Xiaoming , a gender studies expert at Sun Yat-sen University, who was interested in the involvement of women in the Taishi struggle. Mr Yang has been taken into custody and Mr Lu was beaten up, but Professor Ai is still free, though her website has been shut down. The village itself is guarded by mercenaries who are paid 100 yuan a day to beat up any foreign visitors, while the local media has been muzzled.
Analysts believe that Taishi started off as a test case for grass-roots democracy because Premier Wen Jiabao said last month that if people could manage a village, they could manage a township in several years and that would be "an evolving system".
Pro-government scholar Fan Yafeng drew attention to Taishi's significance, strengthening the argument, and yet a local government source said there had been no directive to push for grass-roots democracy.
Cheng Li, professor of government at New York-based Hamilton College, said the central government had called for an experiment and so could not crack down on it. "I don't think we can put it down as a crackdown, but they think there is something wrong with the experiment. I don't go as far as to say that they are ready for democracy," he said. "They want to push for democracy but they want to be their own monitor."
In the first eight months of this year, the Guangdong discipline commission received 150,000 complaints about corruption, cadre misconduct or election irregularities, an average of seven per village in the province. "I've heard that many villagers went to Taishi to learn from their experience," one mainland expert in grass-roots democracy said. "If Taishi succeeded, they would do the same."
Mr Yang, on the lookout for opportunities in the Pearl River Delta, saw the legal issues in the land deals and was able to persuade villagers they had a problem. Taishi captured international interest because Mr Yang had an action plan to use passive resistance, hunger strikes and the foreign media to raise the profile of the dispute. The timing was opportune because the director of Yuwotou, which administers the village, had just been reassigned to another town, leaving a young deputy to hold the fort.
From a run-of-the-mill attempt to recall a village headman, the situation in Taishi deteriorated to such an extent that Beijing stepped in and designated it an important political incident. "It has acquired the same status as the Sars outbreak in 2003 and the Falun Gong," one scholar said. But Guangdong, living up to its reputation as a renegade province, chose to maintain a degree of independence, which might help explain the handling of Taishi.
Despite the crackdown, Mr Lu described Taishi as a success. "Taishi shows the world the ugly side of local government and teaches villagers the value of their votes," he said. "In the past, they thought that whoever you vote for, it makes no difference. They sold their votes for 100 yuan or a pack of cigarettes." Mr Lu believes that the Taishi villagers will prevail against their village chief in the next election in three years' time. And he predicts that if the party is supportive, grass-roots democracy could be a reality in three to five years. "If not, it will take 20 years."
October 19, 2005. (Radio Free Asia) Villagers in Guangdong’s Taishi Slam Official Verdict on Standoff.
“It all seems calm and peaceful here on the outside. But many of the villagers are still very angry about the heavy-handed exercise of power and harsh measures employed by the authorities in this matter,” said one villager.
All roads into the village were still being patrolled by gangs of unidentified men who beat up anyone trying to get into the village to report on or advise the campaign. Villagers were also being prevented from leaving, residents said.
Beijing-based activist Zhang Xin described “a multicolored array of uniforms” present at the road turning into the village.
“We don’t want to accept the injustice we see before us. Most of the villagers feel this way. This version of events isn’t true—it’s just what the government is telling outsiders. Taishi villagers aren’t buying it, because we know what’s really going on here. It’s not the truth,” said one man, identified only by his surname, Feng.
Others appeared too nervous to talk about the standoff, which saw dozens of detentions and violent clashes between elderly hunger-strikers and riot police in September.
“It’s not convenient for me to take part in this discussion right now,” one local resident told RFA’s Cantonese service. “Perhaps you should speak to some of the other villagers.”
Beijing-based activist Zhao Xin said one reason behind the apparent victory by local authorities was the near-total media ban on the village.
“No one, not journalists, not lawyers, not civil rights activists, has been able to perform their legal function of witnessing what is going on,” Zhao said.
“So lawyers traveling to Taishi village from Beijing will be stopped and attacked...There is a multicolored array of military uniforms at the entrance to the village. The villagers aren’t allowed to leave, so there’s no freedom or security to speak of there.”
November 15, 2005. (Boxun) Update on Taishi Village. By Zhao Xin.
Three members of lawyer Wen Haibo's team proceeded to visit Guo Feixiong at the Panyu District detention center. According to Wen, the visit went smoothly. Mr. Guo appears to be decent spirits and still optimistic about the prospects of rights protection. Guo said that he has given up the hunger strike according to the suggestion from his lawyers and family members. Since he has not yet received a full physical examination, he does not what his state it. He still feels weak, and when he picks up a pen, he can't remember the words.
Lawyer Wen had arrived in Guangzhou on Wednesday in order to file the legal steps for applying for visitation rights and bail on behalf of Guo Feixiong. They also wanted to collect evidence with respect to the case, but they were not able to visit Taishi village for safety reasons.
Lawyer Wen will not be able to continue to represent Mr. Guo, as he works with Gao Zhisheng, whose law office was recently closed down. However, other lawyers have solemnly promised that they will take over if necessary.
November 18, 2005. (Observe China) Rights defender Zhao Xin attacked by unknown persons in Sichuan. By Wang Yi.
(Summary) Earlier this year, rights defender Zhao Xin applied to hold a demonstration during the period when Zhao Ziyang passed away. He was then arrested and released on bail. Recently, he wanted to take his parents home and received permission to go out of Beijing. During this trip, he joined a tour group to visit the famous Jiuzhaigou scenic site in Sichuan.
At a Maohuan hotel, Zhao was assaulted by unknown individuals. There were seven persons in the tourist group, but only Zhao was assaulted. Zhao is a famous non-violent human rights advocate. When he was assaulted, he did not fight back. He asked the attackers, "Can you let me take off my coat first?" During the assault, he struggled to tell the attackers, "I don't blame you. Can't you give me a glass of water so that I can wash out the blood in my mouth?" After he said that, he received a second round of beating. He suffered a broken bone in his left leg and four head injuries. He is presently hospitalized in Chengdu.
The case has been reported to the Maoyuan police who are investigating. The police have visited the hotel and said that they could not find any suspicious persons.
November 23, 2005 (Boxun) On Sunday, Zhao Xin described the incident to Radio Free Asia: "From the outside came three persons, with steel pipes and knives. And then another four persons came in and started to assault me. After they gave me a thrashing, they threw me into the courtyard right into the mud. I asked them if they would let me have a drink of water because my mouth was full of blood and I don't want my parents to get worried. But they said that they were there to beat me and they said that I talked too much. Then they gave me another beating. It seemed to be pre-meditated. Apart from my head and chest, they did not touch my left leg but they only hit my right leg. There are marks there of six hits by the steel pipes, with bloody bruises and blisters. It seemed that they wanted to break one of my legs. I am a 'sensitive' person in the country and I was followed by the police. An Audi followed me 24-hours-a-day in Sichuan. Under their 'protection,' it would be impossible for anyone to assault me if they don't want it to happen."
November 19, 2005. (Boxun) Report on the November 19, 2005 incident. By an anonymous media worker (默默潜游)
At 315pm on November 18, I arrived at the Panyu District public security bureau in Guangzhou City where Hubei province Zhijiang City People's Congress representative Lu Banglie was awaiting me. Then I and Lu Banglie entered the reception room.
Lu Banglie showed his identification and formally made an application ot the Panyu District public security bureau: on October 8, 2005, he accompanied Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a reporter with The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, to gather news about the villagers of Taishi Village, Yuwoutou Town, Panyu District who wanted to recall their village director. On that occasion, Lu was assaulted by unidentified individuals. Presently, Lu and friend wishes to re-visit Taishi Village on or about November 20 to visit friends, and would like to apply for the Panyu police to accompany them in order to avoid possible personal injuries.
After about two hours of checking and interrogating, the police officers at the reception office replied: the application will have to be referred to their superiors before a response can be made. They also recommended Lu Banglie to file a report about the assault on him on October 18. Accordingly, Lu agreed and filed a formal report with the Panyu police.
The police then moved onto a different phase. At around 6pm, the reception team was taken over by police officers of the criminal division of the Panyu District public security bureau. Lu Banglie repeated his detailed descripton of the assault incident on October 18. Meanwhile, my professional credentials were also disclosed to the police.
At 930pm, I was taken away from the original police office and segregated from Lu Bangie. In the adjacent room I underwent an interrogation to "assist and understand the situation." The contentd of the interrogationertr focused on the following three subjects: first, my personal identity and my real intent in accompanying Lu Banglie to come here; second, my relationship with Lu Banglie and the Taishi incident; third, my viewpoints and positions with respect to the current situation there.
During the interrogation, through the sound-proof, see-through window, I observed that the light went off in the original room and Lu Banglie was taken away. When I asked the interrogators, I was told that Lu Banglie has been courteously escorted out of town.
At around midnight, I was informed that the director of my media organization had arrived at the Panyu District public security bureau office. I observed through the sound-proof, see-through window that he was talking to seven or eight plainclothes personel.
After many repeated verifications of my identify and placing my palm print on my signed transcript concerning Lu Banglie's application, my interrogation ended and I was turned over to the care of my work unit leader. Before I left, a person who did not wish to disclose his identity lectured me that I should "value my career," informed me about "Lu Banglie's bad behavior and actions," and that they will use "facts and evidence" to educate and persuade me over the next three months. When I left the police station, I asked the police officers present to verfiy that the "interrogation" formally ended at 130am on November 19, 2005.
As I left the reporting room, I observed that there were about ten uniformed officers and plainclothesmen.
After I left the Panyu public security bureau, a colleague told me that the police has taken copies of the business registration data at my work unit as well as my own personnel data. The propaganda department is also reviewing all the articles that I have published at the work unit.
When I went back to my residence, my roommate informed that two separate groups of plainclothes police officers had come with members of the neighborhood committee and the landlord to go over my documents and books that evening. They also took away my reporter's identifocation document at my current work unit as well as a copy of the newspaper where I used to work (when I left the public security bureau, I was informed that my reporter's identification had been given back to my work unit leader). During the seach, the police showed their identification, but they did not show a search warrant.
As of 225am on November 19, I have still not been able to reach Lu Banglie.
P.S. On November 20 (Sunday), please gather at a to-be-named location in Guangzhou around 800am to 830am. I will accompany everybody for a one-day tour of Taishi Village. The trip is scheduled to last until 4pm.
November 19, 2005. (South China Morning Post via Asia Media) Beaten activist to go back to Taishi village. By Leu Siew Ying.
An activist who was badly beaten while trying to help Taishi residents oust a local official for alleged corruption plans to return to the village tomorrow, as scholars resume criticism of the government attack on grass-roots democracy. "I plan to return to Taishi on November 20," said Lu Banglie, who was beaten unconscious while accompanying a British journalist to the village on October 8. "I will ask Panyu police to escort me into the village."
Mr. Lu said the purpose of his visit was to collect evidence to sue the Panyu Public Security Bureau for illegally detaining him on September 16 and a Panyu government spokesman for allegedly lying about his fight with police. Mr. Lu - who successfully ousted the head of his native village of Baoyuesi, in Hubei , in 2003 - spent more than two months helping Taishi residents with procedures to get their village chief recalled. He had since lost contact with the villagers, who he said had been cowed into silence. They had hoped to oust Chen Jinsheng, who has been accused of corruption involving electoral procedures.
News of Mr. Lu's plan was posted on a website, but was deleted almost immediately. Two websites that had previously followed the Taishi case have been shut down for more than a month.
However, scholars are using dissident websites outside the mainland to speak out about the suppression of grass-roots democracy. One of the new online postings, by China University Political Science and Law lecturer Xiao Han, appeared in the latest issue of Hong Kong-based Open magazine. It said the central government did not block Guangdong's crackdown on Taishi village because it regarded freedom of expression as a double-edged sword that must be controlled, and it was not strong enough to exert influence over Guangdong. Professor Xiao said the provincial government's stance on Taishi showed that it was either embroiled in the village corruption scandal and needed to protect its interests, or it was challenging the central government.
(Boxun) How I Was "Escorted" Home. By Lu Banglie. November 25, 2005.
[in translation] Since I issue the "Notice for the One-Day Trip To Experience the Rural Culture of Taishi Village", many friends called up to say that they were willing to go to Taishi Village with me on November 20. Based upon the fact when I accompanied the reporter from The Guardian (UK), I was beaten unconscious by thugs hired by the relevant organizations, I determined not to have the same thing happen and I definitely don't want any of my companions to be assaulted. Therefore, I decided to put our personal safety foremost and I wanted the Panyu District public security office to accompany us on our visit to Taishi village as part of their duties.
At 3pm on November 18, I and my friend Tang Bin (the Guangzhou reporter for the International Commercial Daily met in front of the Panyu District Public Security Bureau office and we entered the reception room.
The first person to receive us was female officer named Li, around 25 years old and her police badge number was 034052. When I explained my purpose, she warmly asked me to go into a reception room inside, fetched us hot tea and brough a "People Visiting Registration Form" for me to fill out as follows:
On October 8, 2005, I accompanied The Guardian's reporter Benjamin Joffee-Walt and others to gather news at Taishi Village. In the village, I was severely beaten by thugs and lose consiousness for more than ten hours. Certain villager friends at Taishi village miss me. Therefore, I intend to go with some friends on November 20 to visit my friends in Taishi village and renew our friendship. But I am concerned about being assaulted by thugs again. Therefore, I hope that your office can send someone to go with us in order to protect our personal safety.
Police officer Li read what I wrote and said: "I must consult my superiors on this matter before giving you an answer. Please wait here while I make the report." Then she left.
At 4:30pm, a female worker in her 30's entered. She said that her name is Chen and she is a grou leader with the petition division. She asked: "The police are getting nervous right now. How many police officers will you need when you go to Taishi village?"
I said: "If your office believes that one officer is enough to protect our personal safety, then one will be enough. If your office believes that ten officers are needed, then let it be ten then."
She said: "The leaders are discussing this right now, and there be an answer today." Then she spoke to me about how I used a postcard to file a reporter with the Panyu District Public Security Bureau about being beaten on October 8. She said that the bureau has received the post card and treats it seriously. She said that they sent a registered letter, but then she said that it may not have been sent it, so she will look for it and deliver it to me by hand ...
At around 5:00pm, group leader Chen left. At 5:40pm, I went out to use the bathroom and I ran into group leader Chen. She said: "The letter was sent out on November 8 via registered mail." I said that I hope to file a report again. Quickly, group leader chen arranged for three police officers from the Criminal Police Squad to come. The three officers identified themselves respectively as Li, Ou and Zhang. They earnestly took down notes; sometimes, when they miswrote a few words, they start off with another sheet ...
By 8:10pm, the notetaking has still not ended. But the deputy party secretary Ma Guohua from my hometown of Baili town, Zhijiang City, Hubei province and a director Yu (I don't know his unit) from Zhijiang City came. I was quite perplexed. So quickly? How did they get here?
They persuaded me to go home and not go to Taishi village. They also asked me if I would still go if the public security bureau refused to sent people to protect us. I said, "I would definitely still go. They can kill me or skin me as they want." When they saw that they could not persuade me, they went out.
Shortly, five to six people came in and they said that they were from the Panyu district people's congress. They asked me to go with them to have a chat. I said that the notetaking for my police report has not been completed yet! They said, "The public security bureau will take care of it."
So they rushed me to a van (at the time that I was coming out, Tang Bin was being interrogated in another room). I said, "Where are you taking me?" They said: "Don't you want to go to Taishi village? We are taking you there now." I said, "My request was to go to Taishi village on the 20th, not now."
They did not listen to what I say. They pushed me into the van and then drove away quickly. I took out my mobile telephone to send messages, but the message could not be sent. I knew that there must interference equipment inside the van, so I simply shut the phone down.
That night, we hurried to Shaoguan in Guangdong province and we stayed in hotel for the night.
The enxt day, we ate lunch in Fengyang (Hunan) and at night we stayed at a 4-star hotel in Changsha.
We continued on the road at 9am on November 20. At just past 1pm, we arrived in Wuhan. We registered in a 3-star hotel. In the afternoon, they took me tour the Yellow Crane Building.
At around noon of November 21, they finally "escorted" me back to a hotel in Zhijiang City. After lunch, the Zhijiang City people's congress deputy director Hu had a "heart-to-heart" talk with me. My Panyu District escorts were going to leave, but I brought up a request to them. I said, "You forcefully 'escorted' me back here. I have unfinished business there, and so I will have to go back to Guangzhou. Therefore, you must compensate me for my losses, including travel and lost wages of about 400 to 500 yuan. Otherwise, I am going back with you in the same car." They checked with their superiors, and they gave me 400 yuan in compensation.
When a deputy secretary of Baili town, Zhijiang City drove me back to my home, it was already pitch dark.
November 26, 2005. (Washington Post) In Chinese Uprisings, Peasants Find New Allies. By Edward Cody.
By the time Lu Banglie drove toward the village of Taishi that night, his photograph had already been distributed to local police stations. So when camouflage-clad men guarding the village entrance stopped his taxi and peered inside, Lu recalled, they immediately shouted, "It's him! It's him!" and yanked him out by the hair.
After dragging him to the side of the street, the guards set on Lu, kicking him and punching him until he passed out, according to Lu and his companions. When Lu regained consciousness more than two hours later, he said, his body was bruised and hurting, his clothing smelled of urine, he was vomiting repeatedly, his vision was blurred and his memory had gone fuzzy.
What happened to Lu, a slight, 34-year-old peasant activist, was perhaps the most brutal chapter in a four-month struggle over the village leadership. But it was far from the only violence. Residents trying to use electoral law and mass protests to overturn their allegedly corrupt village head and Communist Party secretary clashed repeatedly with riot police in the onetime farming community, long since transformed by China's economic boom into an industrial suburb on the southeastern fringe of Guangzhou.
In the process, Taishi has become a milestone in the peasant uprisings that increasingly are breaking out around China, generating open concern in President Hu Jintao's government and in the Communist Party. In Taishi's rebellion, outraged local farmers for the first time received help from outside political activists and Beijing-based intellectuals whose politics were shaped in part by the 1989 democracy movement.
The cooperation between local peasant protesters and veteran activists pursuing a national political agenda -- pushing China toward democracy -- was hailed by Chinese and foreign civil rights advocates as a significant advance. By helping peasants learn from others, they saw a promise of generating more democracy in China's village elections. And by aggressively promoting coverage in Chinese and foreign media through multiple Web postings and broadcasts of cell phone text messages, they thought they had found a way to pressure the authorities. Liu Xiaobo, a well known Beijing activist and writer, said on an overseas-based Web site popular with dissidents, "Civil elites working together with grass-roots villagers created a new method to safeguard villagers' human rights." He added, "Domestic intellectuals and Internet users have provided tremendous support and also brought massive attention among Western media."
But for the government and Communist Party, the coming together of disgruntled peasants and political activists in Taishi caused alarm. It raised the specter of a nascent national leadership and coordination for what so far has been an unconnected series of violent outbursts, usually over local economic issues, each of which has had homegrown leaders without broader ambitions.
"The Chinese Communist Party, at the beginning, organized workers and farmers and used them to rise to power, but now we represent the workers and farmers, and the party is very afraid of us," said Zhao Xin, a student leader in 1989 and now executive director of the Empowerment and Rights Institute, which advised Taishi farmers.
The official fears were not without foundation. Within weeks, the protests in Taishi began to spread. Two nearby villages erupted with similar demonstrations against confiscation of their fields. In one of them, Sanshan, violent confrontations broke out between peasants and police -- and some of the same activists advised Sanshan's peasants behind the scenes.
The authorities in charge of Taishi cracked down hard. They sent in riot police to break up protests. They branded the activists as "plotters" and threw several of them in jail on charges of inciting social disorder. Lu was detained for a day even before the beating. The offices of some were rifled, they said, and their houses were put under surveillance. Some went into hiding.
Most of all, the authorities made sure that Taishi remained under the leadership of Chen Jingshen, the elected village chief and, simultaneously, the unelected Communist Party secretary. He was the target of the angry peasants, who charged that he bribed his way to victory in last April's vote and siphoned off thousands of dollars in village funds over the last several years.
Construction cranes and factories have increasingly encroached on the banana plots and rice paddies that for centuries had underpinned the economy of the village of Taishi and the surrounding district. The metropolis of Guangzhou, capital of the Pearl River Delta's booming manufacturing region, has swallowed up the rural surroundings.
Taishi, with just over 2,000 residents, benefited from the development along with the rest of southeastern China. The village administration took in $600,000 last year, triple its income of 2001. Each adult received about $100 in dividends from communal village land given over to factories assembling jewelry, clothing, shoes and electronic components.
But two villagers, Feng Qiusheng and Liang Shusheng, began asking last May why the annual payments were not higher and why the village was deeply in debt. They demanded that Chen, the party secretary who had just taken over as village chief, open the accounts. Feng, 26, an accountant, wanted to go over the books himself. But Chen rejected that idea, along with the rest of their questions.
In July, a new face showed up in Guangzhou, the huge nearby metropolis. He was Yang Maodong, 39, a former philosophy professor and an experienced activist. Yang, a stocky, disheveled intellectual who spoke with rapid-fire intensity and wore the Chinese academic's traditional black-plastic-framed glasses, was a contributor to dissident Web sites and had written a book on the collapse of the Soviet Union. His political beliefs harked back to the democracy spirit of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. A natural organizer and unabashed nationalist, he had last been detained in April for his role in promoting anti-Japanese demonstrations in Beijing.
Given his background, it was not long before Yang made a connection with the angry peasants, including Feng, the young accountant who was challenging Chen's leadership of the village.
At a dinner in July organized by Yang in an inexpensive Guangzhou restaurant, Feng was also introduced to Lu, the peasant organizer who was later to be beaten. Lu was already gaining recognition for his activism. In 2003, he had endured beatings and used a five-day hunger strike to force out the leader of his own village, in Hubei province, on corruption charges. The government-run China Youth Daily had hailed him at the time as a "front-runner of peasant grass-roots democracy." Eager to pursue his activism, he was immediately attracted to the fight over Taishi's leadership.
Lu, whose oily hair and ill-fitting black suit bespeak his peasant background, said he had come to Beijing in April and again in early July seeking guidance from more educated political activists about what to do next. One of the people he met during those consultations in the capital, he said in an interview, was Yang. And the subject of Taishi was already part of their conversation.
An activist leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Beijing-based community organizers had decided to lend support to Feng's cause soon after they heard of his challenge. For them, encouraging farmers to push for more democratic village elections was a longtime national goal, and Taishi seemed to fit the bill. They also reasoned this fast-growing region would be fertile ground, he said, because of its economic development and nearness to the relatively liberal atmosphere of Hong Kong.
Lu, the peasant organizer, moved to Guangzhou soon after talking with Yang. He found a job for about $65 a month in a factory manufacturing plastic Christmas trees. Although earning some badly needed money was his main motive for taking up residence here, Lu said it also meant he was on hand to offer advice when, in Taishi, the two peasants Feng and Liang decided to press a legal case for removing their village leader.
Yang and Lu, two veteran activists, quietly got involved in the struggle. They advised the Taishi villagers on what options were open to them under China's election laws, Lu said, and inspired them by recounting Lu's experience in booting out a corrupt leader back home in Hubei province. Basing their demand on the election law and its recall provision, Feng and Liang filed a formal recall motion on July 29. According to Lu and the district government, the motion was drafted with help from Lu and Yang.
It carried more than 400 signatures, meeting the threshold of endorsement by 20 percent of Taishi's 1,500 registered voters.
Villagers gathered two days later in an open square. From atop a heap of bricks, as local reporters and other witnesses looked on, Feng read a section from Chinese law books saying village accounts must be published every six months and villagers had the right to recall Chen.
"The law will be our guardian," he vowed.
An alarm bell rang in the village committee office on the evening of Aug. 3. Villagers who heard the noise rushed to the scene and, they recalled, surprised the village accountant and a companion in what looked like an attempt to spirit away the ledgers. Before the two could get away with the books, the villagers told reporters, a crowd gathered and prevented them from leaving. The accounts stayed put.
The next morning, police and district officials came to take the books away -- to protect them, they said. Villagers called the Guangzhou Communist Party Discipline and Inspection Bureau, denouncing what they interpreted as an attempt to cover up malfeasance. But their calls elicited no response, they said. A group of elderly women moved into the three-story administration building and refused to budge. The ledgers would stay, they vowed.
As the sit-in continued, plainclothes security agents detained a protest leader as he rode his motorcycle down a village lane on Aug. 16. On hearing the news, hundreds of villagers poured out of their homes and surrounded the van into which the agents had stuffed the leader, blocking its passage.
After a several-hour confrontation during which the number of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, witnesses said, an estimated 500 riot police drove up in several dozen vehicles and waded into the crowd, swinging their batons. In Internet postings, villagers reported five of their number were arrested. A 16-year-old youth suffered a concussion, they said, and an 80-year-old peasant woman suffered a broken bone and had to be hospitalized. The sit-in continued, meanwhile, with the elderly women still refusing to leave. Within days, their numbers grew.
The district government two weeks later handed down a ruling that the recall motion was unacceptable because it was a photocopy, and the law demanded the original signatures. Outraged, a number of villagers, including elderly women, started a hunger strike outside the district headquarters building.
After several days, some of the hunger strikers were detained and later released on condition they return home, the protesters said. As they left custody about 3 p.m., they reported, officials gave them box lunches.
Despite the gesture, the atmosphere remained tense. As police moved in to make the arrests, one elderly woman threatened to blow up the building by igniting a canister of liquefied gas, according to witnesses. Yang sent messages to Chinese and foreign reporters recounting what was happening and urging them to visit. A reporter from the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post showed up, and two youths smashed her car windows with rocks.
From that point on, things moved fast.
On Sept. 5, a delegation of villagers went to the district headquarters to present the original recall motion with the original signatures. But official patience had frayed. Activists later speculated that word had come down from Beijing that the uproar in Taishi -- and the confluence of political activism with peasant outrage -- had to be stopped. Although his role could not be determined, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the region Sept. 9-13 to confer with senior regional and city officials.
Beijing-based activists said they received warnings from the Civil Affairs Ministry about that time to back away from the Taishi dispute. "Everybody was scared," one of them recalled.
Back in Taishi, more than 50 vehicles drove up to the village administration building on Sept. 12 and disgorged hundreds of riot police, witnesses said. Swinging batons and training high-pressure hoses on the elderly women inside, the police cleared the building and made way for district officials to take away the account books.
Nearly 50 protesters were taken into custody. The next day, Yang was also arrested as he drove to meet a crew from the Hong Kong-based Phoenix satellite television channel. Lu was urged to leave, but refused. "You know, he is just like a farmer; he is stubborn," said an activist who has worked with Lu.
Then, in a surprise turn of events, the district government announced that the recall motion was proved valid and villagers should choose an election committee to organize a new vote for village chief, scheduled for the middle of October. The protests should now stop, it said, and activists with "ulterior motives" should be ignored.
On first glance, this seemed like a triumph for the villagers. The official party newspaper, People's Daily, hailed the outcome as a model for village elections and pointed to signs of "a democratic environment built upon rationality and legality."
But then the district government arbitrarily chose all candidates for the seven-person election committee -- and all were local officials loyal to Chen.
Outraged, the still-defiant villagers threatened to boycott the vote. Seeking to prevent more violence, the district government swiftly relented and allowed another slate to run as well. The vote was held Sept. 16; all the unofficial candidates were elected and none of the government's slate.
The seven committee members now had four weeks to organize a new vote for village chief. But somewhere in the government and party bureaucracy -- activists believe it was at a senior level in Beijing -- officials had decided Chen would not be replaced, lest a precedent be set.
Lu, who was in the village to monitor the Sept. 16 vote, was picked up by police the same day. After a long interrogation and a warning to clear out of the area, he was released that evening. In what they hoped was a farewell gesture, police officers bought him a pair of $12 shoes, he said later, to replace those that had come off during a brief struggle when he was taken into custody.
District officials announced shortly after the new election committee was chosen that their auditors had found no evidence of wrongdoing in the Taishi accounts. Party and government officials swiftly fanned out to persuade villagers to drop the struggle. Unless the recall motion was withdrawn, they suggested, detained relatives might stay in jail and people might lose their jobs.
The threats worked. The district government reported by the end of September that 396 of the 584 signatures were withdrawn. The recall procedure therefore was invalid, it announced, and the vote scheduled for October was canceled.
Then guards wearing camouflage fatigues, but without official insignia, took up positions at streets leading into the village and began screening outsiders trying to enter and villagers trying to leave.
Villagers told activists the guards were unemployed men from surrounding villages paid $12 a day by Chen's head of security. The district government claimed in a statement that they were Taishi villagers upset at the uproar in their community. Two foreign reporters who drove up Oct. 7 to find out why the signatures were withdrawn were attacked by the guards and driven off.
It was the next night that Lu tried to drive in, along with a reporter from the Guardian newspaper, also seeking to learn what had changed since mid-September.
"We never imagined that we would be suppressed like this," Lu said.
In an interview nearly two weeks after his beating, Lu's lips were covered with scabs and his arms with bruises. His eyes were blurry at times and his head ached, he said, but he vowed to persist in organizing farmers to pick their own village leaders.
"I will definitely continue," he said, "but how to do it is the question now."
(December 27, 2005) Anti's Blog.
Guo Feixiong and all the other arrested Taishi villagers were released today. There will be no charges filed against them.
(December 27, 2005) Reuters AlertNet. By Chris Buckley.
A Chinese human rights activist held by police for more than three months after helping a village protest in southern China was released without charges on Tuesday, in an unusual official concession to protestors. Guo Feixiong, a writer and advocate of democratic change, told Reuters he was released after being in police detention since mid-September and holding a month-long hunger-strike. Police had charged him with "disturbing social order", he said, but prosecutors told him on Tuesday he would not be indicted. However, they accused him of being a "ring-leader" of anti-government protests in Taishi Village, near Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, Guo said by telephone. "They said I'd personally commanded villagers on how to depose the village leaders and organized them to surround the village committee offices," he said. "The charges were absurd."
In recent days, Guangzhou police have also released four or five villagers involved in the protests, said Zhao Xin, a human rights campaigner. Altogether, about 20 villagers were detained and later released.
(December 28, 2005) Boxun. By Guo Feixiong.
I was formally released at 4pm on December 28, 2005 by the Panyu District public security bureau. Previously, the Panyu District People's Procuratorate workers had read me the "Decision Not To Prosecute". They said that the charge against me for "gathering people to disrupt social order" was corract and that I was singly responsible for directing, commanding and operating the long-term occupation of the Taishi village financial office. However, the crime was minor and did not warrant punishment.
On December 27, I and other detained Taishi villagers were released one after another. Without doubt, this was a victory for national and international opinion. This was a victory for the democratic movement and rights movement in China, and a victory for the progressive and reformist wings of the various levels of government in China. It was a defeat for the evil, ossified and authoritarian elements from the central to the local governments. The method of "strangling in the bud" style of suppression is no longer useful and we have found its nemesis -- an open, legal, gentle, responsible, local, grassroots, gradual and orderly rights movement.
On the afternoon of September 13, I was seized by the Panyu District natioanal security officres in an Internet bar in Guangzhou City. I was detained formally that evening in room 658 of the Panyu District Detenction Center. Within the first three days, the legal document and reason for detention was changed three times.
From September 13 to November 10, I refused to eat and drink for a total of 59 days. The Guangdong province public security bureau and the Panyu District public security bureau did not want to send me to a hospital for treatment. So it was the Detention Center's health clinic which put me on intravenous drip and force feeding to keep me alive. At first, it was twice every three days and then once every three days. During this time, on September 21 and twice in the first half of November, there were crises. On November 10, I was sent to the detention hospital for treatment. My body weight was 54 kilograms, about 20 kilograms less than the 74 kilograms that I weighted before coming in. I weighted the same in my high school years.
The reason that I went on hunger/water strike was to protest firmly against the arbitrary arrests of innocents by the evil powers on mainland China. At the same time, I thought that the longer I fought on, the greater attention will be drawn from the outside and that be of greater help to the arrested villagers. For people who are willing to offer their lives for free democracy, going to jail and receiving sentences mean nothing. It is an honor. But more young people will be encouraged by our acts and they will join in the rights and democracy movements.
On the evening of September 25, the Guangdong province public security bureau began to torture me. They used extremely foul language to insult me. I had been on hunger/thirst strike for half a month, and I was shaky. They turned up the air conditioning to make me feel cold and break my will. The next day, I reported them to the prosecutor and I condemned my tormentors in public. The torture soon stopped.
On the evening of November 10, the detention hospital force-fed me through a nose tube On the next morning, I was forced to stop my hunger/thirst strike. Between the morning of November 12 up to my release on December 27, I was under 24-hour-a-day watch by armed police officers.
I am basically healthy now, but I am a bit weak.
(December 28, 2005) AsiaNews.it
Beijing has “bowed down to pressure from the international and domestic media” and ordered the release of a human rights activist and seven residents of Taishi, a village known as “the test-case of democracy” in China.
Shortly after his release, the activist, Yang Maodong, better known as Guo Feixiong, said: “Releasing me is definitely a central decision, not the province. It also shows that within the ruling party there are liberals. It's not totally rigid and above all, it bows down to pressure.”
Yang was released yesterday afternoon by the Panyu People's Procuratorate (the district where Taishi is situated) which dropped charges against him. “"They read me a document saying that I had committed a crime, but it was so slight that they would not prosecute me. They then sent me back to Guangzhou.” The activist added: “My release is a victory against autocracy”.
The seven residents, some of them in prison since the end of August, were released in the morning and sent home with a warning not to speak to the press or other people involved in the dispute. One of them said: “Before we came out, they made us sign a pledge saying that we would not do it again, and our families also needed to sign a similar document to promise that we would not get into trouble."
(January 1, 2006) Chinese Activists Targeted by Thug Violence. By Edward Cody. Washington Post.
Two assailants wearing black leather jackets repeatedly slammed him with lead pipes, Zhao Xin recalled, while a third swiped at his groin with a switchblade. Soon they were joined by four more toughs, also armed with pipes, and all seven pounded away. By the time they stopped, Zhao said, they had opened four head wounds, broken two ribs, ripped his calf muscles and shattered his right knee.
Zhao, a veteran political activist based in Beijing, was paying the price for advising Chinese farmers on how to fight back against local officials seizing their fields for economic development, according to his assessment and those of other activists. Increasingly, they said, China's provincial, city and county governments are turning to small-time hoodlums to carry out violent repression without directly involving uniformed policemen or agents of the Public Security Ministry.
But the attack on Zhao, which occurred in a remote corner of Sichuan province on Nov. 17, also opened a window on Communist Party officialdom as the country follows an uncertain road toward economic and political change. On Dec. 12, as Zhao lay in his bed at Bayi Orthopedics Hospital here in the provincial capital, four senior party and government officials showed up unannounced to offer their apologies -- along with flowers, fruit and a promise to pay his medical bills.
The gesture, soon followed by others, came as a total surprise, Zhao said in an interview in the hospital room, and was the result of orders from high levels of the party bureaucracy. The visit cheered him up, Zhao said with a laugh, but he did not take it to mean that President Hu Jintao's government had experienced a change of heart about his political activism.
"On the one hand, they keep sending officials and giving me flowers," he said. "But on the other, they keep trying to block my work. They send viruses into my computer, for instance, and interrupt my mobile phone conversations."
Zhao, 37, had come to Sichuan province to see friends and join his mother and father in a visit to Jiuzhaigou National Park, renowned for its mountain scenery. On the way back from the park, the three of them were overnighting with the rest of their tour group at Maoxian, a small town 75 miles northwest of Chengdu, when Zhao and others from the group went to a karaoke bar after dinner.
According to a local party official contacted in Maoxian by telephone, Zhao and three others arranged to have prostitutes sent in but then fought over the price, leading the bar manager to call in local hoods. The bar has been closed and Zhao's assailants have been arrested, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. According to this version, repeated in the official press of surrounding Aba prefecture, the violence was thus criminal thuggery that had nothing to do with Zhao's political activities, and official apologies were offered because the local economy relies on tourists visiting Jiuzhaigou.
Zhao said the official report was an attempt to "cover up the truth." In fact, he explained, the argument erupted because the four men decided to leave almost immediately after arriving, finding the establishment too cold. Moreover, he said, he suspected the three men he was with were undercover policemen who had been tailing him throughout his trip. As he was being beaten, in two sessions over 20 minutes, they stood by without being bothered, he said.
"When it was over and I was lying there, they came and helped me stand up," Zhao recalled. "They said, 'We're sorry, Mr. Zhao.' "
Later that night, they described themselves as "soldiers on a mission," he said. The next day, as the tour bus continued on to Chengdu, the three kept to themselves. But a black sedan followed closely behind the bus, Zhao said, frightening the other tourists so badly that, at a rest stop, their guide walked over and asked those inside to stop trailing Zhao, who was severely injured.
"The brutal beating of Zhao Xin is a clear example of the escalating use of thug violence to intimidate grass-roots activists," said Sharon Hom, executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights in China. "Like the Taishi crackdown in Guangdong province," she added, referring to the beating of peasant activist Lu Banglie in the village of Taishi in October, "this violence often occurs with the tacit approval of government officials."
Zhao, still in the hospital six weeks after the attack, called friends and officials in an attempt to figure out who ordered the beating. He probably never will know, he acknowledged, but he has three theories, all involving one layer or another of the government.
The first, which he and other activists regard as the most probable, is that Taishi officials dispatched someone to arrange the beating as punishment for his involvement in the struggle over land confiscations in that rapidly industrializing village on the outskirts of Guangzhou. Zhao, executive director of the Empowerment and Rights Institute, was among those who advised Taishi farmers in their campaign. Lu Banglie also worked with villagers in Taishi.
Another possibility, Zhao said, is that police from his Beijing neighborhood arranged the beating. He has frequently tangled with police in the capital, Zhao said, and had to get permission from them to visit Sichuan because of probation rules from past scrapes with the law.
Finally, Zhao speculated that the State Security Ministry, which operates more secretively than the Public Security Ministry, might have decided to act against him as part of a crackdown on dissidents. The nationwide campaign has targeted in particular those who, like Zhao, are associated with a wave of peasant violence across China in the last two years.
Local governments frequently send security personnel around China to tail or arrest suspected dissidents, making all three of Zhao's theories equally plausible. In addition, by hiring thugs as enforcers, local authorities have found a way to keep police distant from illegal or unsightly actions.
Lu said, for instance, that he was assaulted not by police officers but by unemployed local toughs paid a day rate by the Taishi district government's security chief. In Hebei province in June, about 300 men with guns and knives, hired by local businessmen in collaboration with officials, killed six protesting farmers. And in the city of Xian, a half-dozen Catholic nuns were injured in November by hired thugs as they resisted local officials' efforts to take over their convent for a development project.
"I think the mafia-ization of local governments is getting more and more serious, especially at the municipal and lower levels," said Chen Yongmiao, a constitutional scholar in Beijing. "We should play close attention to this new phenomenon."
Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have repeatedly called for observance of the rule of law, but they have yet to come out forcefully and publicly against official use of hired thugs. Until they openly rebuke and prosecute provincial, city and county officials who resort to the practice, anti-government activists said, the phenomenon is unlikely to go away.
"The people who have power and influence at the local level tolerate mafias that blatantly violate the law and persecute the peasants who defend their rights and the public figures who support them, while Hu and Wen turn a blind eye to the regional rogue elements who violate the law," commentator Liang Jing wrote in a Radio Free Asia article.
Zhao said, however, that he was told that senior party officials in Beijing -- perhaps Hu himself -- sent orders to the Sichuan party apparatus to express dismay over his beating and to investigate how it happened.
The decision came down, he reasoned, not out of remorse but because of public relations concerns: Foreign human rights groups had voiced outrage, the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu had called inquiring about his health, and thousands of Chinese Internet users had condemned the incident.
Moreover, the Beijing government was particularly sensitive about its image at that point, Zhao recalled. Members of the People's Armed Police had opened fire on rioting farmers and fishermen Dec. 6 in the seaside village of Dongzhou, killing a number of them and attracting wide attention abroad. It was less than a week later, he said, that the official well-wishers started appearing in his hospital room.
The Taishi Village (03/18/2006)
The Taishi Village Election - Round 2 (03/21/2006)
Once upon a time, there was a small village named Taishi Village in Guangdong province, China. One day, a villager named Feng Qiusheng had the idea that the villagers could follow the Constitution of the People's Republic of China together with the State Council's booklet on village elections to hold a recall election of the village director. After many twists and turns (including the arrest of Feng Qiusheng and his father for a few weeks), that election never took place due to goverment pressure on the voters.
Is the case closed? Maybe for that particular recall vote of the village director. But there are other elections of all types, with the most recently held one being the representative to the People's Congress. Since the Guangdong province party secretary Zhang Dejiang has insisted that government officials will be held strictly accountable for any mass incidents, there was apparently no "monkey" business going on in this election.
Here is the outcome as reported in Boxun. According to the information provided by activist Guo Feixiong, the election of the People's Congress representative took place on March 17. There were 699 eligible voters in Taishi Villlage, of which villager Feng Qiusheng received 331 votes (just 18 short of an absolute majority) as an independent to lead all candidates.
Previously, former village recall referendum leader Feng Qiusheng led all comers with 331 out of 699 votes for the People's Congress representative. On March 20, 2006, the run-off election was held between Feng Qiusheng and the preferred candidate of the government. Here is summarized the Boxun report:
Between 9am to 2pm, the second round of elections was held as scheduled. 740 eligible voters cast their votes. The process went smoothly, under the watch of the election committee, the party cadres and the civilian volunteers.
On the day before, some villagers were saying that certain people with government background have been feasting the villagers and provided that each voter would receive 30 RMB if they voted for the candidate other than Feng Qiusheng.
In the morning, the Hong Kong reporter Ms. Liew arrived and was persuaded to leave by the relevant personnel.
At 2pm, Feng Qiusheng told the reporter by phone that things have gone well and he might win. The election results are expected to be published after 5pm.
At 5:32pm, Feng Qiusheng told the reporter that the results in other election districts have published and the government's two candidates won. In Feng's district, the villagers refused to let the election committee open the ballot boxes because the election committee had let the familiy members of absent villagers to vote on their behalves without proper authorization. Therefore, the villagers were in the process of negotiation.
At around 7pm, an anonymous villager called to say that the ballot boxes have been sealed and removed by government officials.
Meanwhile, on the morning of March 20 between 8am and 9am, the wife of Guo Feixiong went down the street for food shopping. The undercover policemen followed closely, staying without one or two meters away. Guo protested without effect and returned home. At 10am, Guo Feixiong called the reporter: "This is not a question of non-violence anymore. I am going to walk out the door and take this undercover person down to the police station." According to the reports, Guo was assaulted by the undercover personnel, his head was injured and his mobile telephone taken away. Guo has filed a police report.
The bottom of this report includes the transcript of the interview with Guangdong Province party secretary Zhang Dejiang about how Guangdong will show the rest of the nation about the civilized rule of law.
P.S. (The Sun via ChineseNewsNet) In past elections, absent villagers can write a certification of authorization to ask their relatives to vote on their behalf. During the second round of votes, those with authorizations to vote for the government candidate Liang were allowed to do so, but those with authorizations to vote for Feng were barred. This was the cause for the hundred or so villagers to face off against the 200 or so government officials and police officers. A settlement was negotiated by Panyu District People's Congress representatives in which the ballot boxes were sealed and the counting process will be determined at a later stage.
The Taishi Village Elections (or How To Steal An Election, If You Must) (03/29/2006)
Here is a recapitulation of events: There was an election held in Taishi Village on March 17 for the position of People's Congress representative. Out of 699 votes cast, former village recall referendum leader Feng Qiusheng got 336 votes while the government candidate Liang Jianhong received 260 votes. Since neither candidate got a majority, a run-off vote between Feng and Liang took place on March 20. There were certain irregularities noted. As a result of protests, the government agreed to have the ballot boxes sealed and then a work team came from Panyu district to study the situation. The work team left without any resolution.
Here is the latest update (via Boxun; Ming Pao) At around 11am on March 28, the election officials and police suddenly appeared in Taishi village, opened the ballot boxes and started counting the votes. Here are the 'official results': Feng Qiusheng who had 331 votes in round one got 234 votes in round two; Liang Jianhong got 260 votes in round one got 434 votes in round two. The 'winner' is Liang Jianhong.
So here is how to steal an election (if you must):
- You appoint the members of the election committee instead of getting them elected as required by regulations.
- You hold banquets in the days before and ask villagers to vote for your candidate.
- You promise cash payments to anyone who votes for your candidate. (How do you know that they did? Read on ...)
- You will only allow proxy votes for your candidate and not for his opponent.
- You offer a mobile voting service and visit villagers in their homes with the ballot boxes on voting day.
- You bring in a couple of hundred of election officials and police officers to uphold the integrity of the election.
- You forbid villagers and outside observers to watch the actual vote casting because this is a 'secret ballot.'
- You pay the villagers (now or later) if they flash the 'theoretically secret' ballot at you right before putting it in the box to prove their vote.
- You invite the South China Morning Post reporter Leu Siew Ying to leave the scene.
- You agree for arbitration when the villagers become incensed over what has transpired so far.
- You accept the decision to seal the ballot boxes to await a senior-level government work team to come and study the problems.
- You move the sealed ballot boxes into your office for 'safe-keeping.'
- You wait for the government work team to come and go without any decision.
- You bring in a couple of hundred election officials and police officers to count the votes.
- You don't announce the ballot counting, so that few villagers were present.
- You bring the sealed ballot boxes to the village government office and invite only the production brigade leaders and village shareholders to witness.
- You ban all other observers (including the candidates themselves).
- You announce your counts and proclaim victory for your candidate.
- You defer all press inquiries to another official, who will then defer all inquiries back to you ad infinitum.
- You get the usual bad press from the "hostile overseas forces" ... oh, well, you can't have everything but you knew that already ...
(The Guardian) 'Some villagers are angry, but most are just afraid' Jonathan Watts. May 2, 2006.
Being an opposition candidate in a one-party state was never going to be easy, but Feng Qiusheng took more of a risk than most when he decided to run for the People's Congress in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
This was not just because his previous attempt to defend human rights resulted in a four-month prison term. Nor was it because he was campaigning against a communist political machine that has held power almost unchallenged for 57 years.
The real risk was in where he chose to make his stand: the flashpoint village of Taishi, where China's nascent rural democracy movement has run up against some of the worst violence and official intimidation seen since the central government promised greater electoral accountability at the grass-roots level in 1988.
It could hardly be further from the centre of power in Beijing, but Feng is treated like a threat to the state. He is followed by police, his phone is tapped and he is frequently called in for questioning by the authorities.
His supporters suffer similar treatment. For more than six months, Taishi has been gripped by fear.
Interviewed in the nearby town of Panyu, locals say Taishi village is patrolled by thugs who threaten critics of the local chief and police who monitor every vehicle that comes in and out of the community of 2,100 people.
Intimidation tactics have become the norm. Despite the prime minister Wen Jiabao's promise to Tony Blair last September that China was moving towards greater electoral accountability, the authorities here treat democracy as a threat rather than a right.
Last October, the human rights activist Lu Banglie was severely beaten by thugs in the pay of the local authorities. Shortly before that, a car containing visiting academics and lawyers was surrounded by a gang, its windows smashed and the passengers warned never to return. Journalists have faced similar treatment.
Although the domestic media has been forbidden from reporting anything other than the official version of events, the campaign in this small village has had far reaching repercussions.
Earlier this year, the beating of a lawyer Guo Feixiong - who has been involved in the Taishi campaign - sparked a hunger strike that led to dozens of arrests in several provinces.
Coming amid a wave of mass protests in Guangdong, local communist cadres have warned that foreign subversives are attempting to foment revolution in the most developed of China's provinces.
For Feng, a 29-year-old university graduate, the issues are more local: corruption and the seizure of village land by developers.
"I'm not an idealist. I'm just doing this to defend the rights of the people in the village," said the candidate whose family has lived in Taishi for generations.
According to residents, the average family in Taishi had more than 1,300 square meters of farmland six years ago. Two-thirds of this property has since been gobbled up by iron and textile factories - with little compensation for the villagers. Last year, they received less than 150 pounds for a year's rent of their land.
Unlike many other similarly restless communities, Taishi's residents have not taken to the streets to protest illegally. Instead - prompted by activists from Beijing and elsewhere - they have tried to use the law and politics to press their case.
Despite this peaceful approach, the prospect of peasants organising themselves politically has been treated by the authorities as more of a threat than violent demonstrations.
Last year, more than a dozen residents - including Feng - were beaten or arrested when they attemped to impeach the village chief and communist party secretary, Chen Jinsheng, who they suspect of embezzling communal funds.
In the election last month, villagers say locals were intimidated, bribed and votes were rigged to stop Feng from becoming one of four village representatives to the township People's Congress.
The Guardian spoke to four local residents, all of whom were too scared of retribution to allow their names to be made public.
"The mood is very tense. There are 30 guards at the entrance to the village. Rights activists are followed everywhere," said one man. "The election was unfair, but we don't know what we can do about it. Some villagers are angry, but most are simply afraid."
A Taishi woman said she was afraid to leave the village. "Our lives are miserable. We just tend the banana fields in the day and stay at home in the evening. Everyone is too scared to socialise."
Another resident said the authorities has stepped up censorship of information. "We used to be able to buy Hong Kong newspapers in the village shop, but they are now prohibited. Pages are torn out of mainland newspapers that report news that might cast officials in a bad light."
The scare tactics appear to be working. Feng's supporters say half of those who campaigned for impeachment last year are now too nervous to get involved.
Not everyone has given up. A group of Beijing lawyers are preparing a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the election. One of the country's leading rural rights activists, Yao Lifa is planning a petition campaign to the standing committee of the National People's Congress - China's parliament.
But this test case of China's commitment to greater democracy has proved dispiriting for many of those involved.
"The situation has deteriorated," said Feng. "Villagers have been told not to speak to me. If they dare to have dinner with me, they are quizzed afterwards by officials. I am worried. This is affecting the lives of the people who helped me. They are under constant threat."
The opposition candidate is now looking for another regular job. He says he has not given up the struggle for the rights of the villagers, but without the backing of a political party, there is a limit to what he can do. "I have to make a living."
Activists say they have not given up, but the optimism generated during the early days of last year's impeachment campaign has been crushed.
"It's like there is a black fog enveloping the village," said a local. "Everyone feels they could be arrested at any moment. It's appalling, like a form of terrorism."
(RFA via Boxun) July 25, 2006.
Village representative Feng Qiusheng told reporters on Tuesday that some villagers intend to hold a BBQ party outside the village office: "Those villagers willing to come can buy something to bring there. We will meet and have some discussions. After all, we had watched the place for more than 40 days. We do not intend to cause trouble. We will bring a television over and show some of the documentary film. Most of the recall process had been recorded. We want villagers to remember it, because many villagers were hurt during this affair. If possible, we hope to invite people from the outside too."
But even as the event was being organized, the authorities carried out another round of suppression. A stalwart rights defender Feng Caihong was attacked last week. Feng Qiusheng said: "They claimed that we were causing trouble and they followed our leaders around. Since July 10, they have increased the guards at the village road entrance, keeping watch day and night. They also invited some people in and want them to suppress this matter. Several days ago, a woman was injured in a knife attack. They think that the other villagers won't dare to act."
Female villager Feng Caihong was attacked by the thugs hired by the village cadres last Tuesday night on her way home. She suffered three slashes on her back made by a watermelon knife. On Tuesday, she was interviewed by our radio station and told us what happened: "That person did not belong to our village. I don't know him. He just ran over and attacked me. It was a very long watermelon knive. He slashed me two or three times behind on my waist. I got several stitches. He was directed by the village security director. At the time, several security people saw what happened but they did nothing. I called the police who showed up more than an hour later and they found nobody."
According to information, the attacker was unable to find the stalwart rights defenders Feng Qiusheng and Feng Weinan and therefore elected to attack Feng Caihong instead as a sign of warning to everyone. Feng Caihong has recently been complaining that the village cadres were derelict in their duties. Two weeks ago, many houses in the village were flooded in the rain storm. The village cadres did not administer ad but vanished instead. The villagers had to call the police for help. On Monday last week, Feng Caihong complained to the village committee and she was attacked on Tuesday.
This was not the first time that a Taishi villager has been slashed. In February this year, villager Wu Yaomin took rights activists Guo Feixiong into the village on his motorcycle and he was slashed in the back and his fingers were had to reattached after being chopped off. At the time, the villagers said that the village security director was the mastermind behind the attack.
Feng Caihong told the reporter that it was not only the village cadres who suppressed the villagers. A while ago, at the elections for the people's congress representatives, village representative Feng Qiusheng had a huge lead. During the second round of outing, the authorities used vote buying to defeat Feng Qiusheng and they also accused Feng Caihong of buying votes on behalf of Feng Qiusheng. The Panyu district public security bureau officials also called up the factory where she works and pressure her boss to stop her from getting involved in rights activities in the village. She said: "The Personnel Department director called me and asked me if I was doing anything illegal. They said that I was offering 50 RMB for each vote."
... Up to now, the land compensation issue and the corruption problem have not only been unresolved but things are getting worse. In the recently published village committee financial report, the village has accumulated another unexplained 20 million plus RMB in debts. Feng Qiusheng said that this was the reason why they took all these risks in order to defend their rights: "We are not afraid. This is the path that we took. Right now, the main thing is to get our land back."
(SCMP) Taishi activist arrested. By Lew Siew Ying. August 5, 2006.
Police in Guangdong took into custody one of the leaders of an attempt by Taishi villagers last year to have their headman removed for alleged corruption, a villager said yesterday.
"Police arrested Feng Qiusheng just now," the villager who witnessed the arrest said. "He was standing by the roadside outside Taishi market talking to a friend when they took him away." The villager said police first went into the market to catch about 10 people who were gambling and caught Mr Feng on their way out. When he and his friend and other villagers tried to stop them, police warned them not to obstruct the operation. "We were all very angry and we shouted at them and asked them why they were arresting Qiusheng when he was not among those who gambled but they did not reply," the source said.
An officer at Yuwotou police station confirmed that they had conducted an operation in Taishi and arrested some people. "I can't tell you if Feng Qiusheng is one of them. Let me find out the details and get back to you," he said.
Related Links: The Taishi Elections - Part 2 (The KR Report); The Importance of The Taishi Elections; Taishi Village, My Neighbor