Heavy Sentence for Elected Fujian Village Director, Leader in Fight against Illegal Land Expropriation
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders,November 2, 2010) – OnOctober 28, Jinjiang City Intermediate People’s Court in FujianProvincesentenced successful businessman-turned-village director Lü Jiangbo (吕江波) to 11 years in prison.Originally detained onsuspicion of “obstructing official business,” Lü was later convicted onfive additionalcharges, ranging from "extortion" to “undermining elections.” Eightother villagers have also been convicted and given various sentences inthesame trial. CHRD believes the decision comes as retaliation for Lü’sefforts toorganize residents of Keren Village, Jinjiang City,to defend theirland rights.
“This is anunusually harsh sentence, andone which telegraphs a clear message to other village leaders acrossthecountry,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Governmentofficialsare furious that an elected village director has chosen to side withthevillagers rather than cooperate with the authorities. To thegovernment, this organizedopposition is intolerable.”
Only a fewyears ago, state-runpublications were heralding Lü as an example of the type of “people ofability”filling leadership roles in rural communities.[i]After leaving KerenVillage as a youngman, Lümade his fortune selling clothing, earning his first million RMB in1988 at theage of 22. Ten years later, Lü became involved in the fight for landrightswhen he and a teacher from Keren co-authored a public letter tothen-PremierZhu Rongji complaining of illegal land seizures in the village. By2003, Lü hadreturned to Keren, where he was elected village director. He has servedin thatrole for the past seven years, winning re-election on three occasions.
Located atthe edge of Jinjiang City,Keren Village’s farmland continues tobeexpropriated by the city government as the urban area expands. In early2010, withoutfollowing the proper legal procedures, JinjiangCity officials demanded that Keren Villagerelinquish 1,200 mu (approximately 200 acres) of land for theconstruction of acollege campus. In February 2010, Lü convened a meeting of villagerepresentatives and put the government’s plans to a vote. Therepresentativesvoted against the development. Construction crews arrived regardless,and aftera clash broke out between villagers and the workers, local authoritiessummonedLü for questioning. Following 24 hours of interrogation, he was turnedover tothe Jinjiang City Party Discipline Inspection Commission, who held himin shuanggui(双规), a form of extralegaldetention, for 50days.[ii]Lü was then criminally detained on suspicion of “obstructing officialbusiness”and tried in September. He testified during his trial that he wastortured bypolice to confess while in detention, and displayed scars from theabuse hesuffered.
On the morning of the verdicthearing, a force ofapproximately 200 police and city administration and law enforcementofficersblocked all the roads leading out of Keren Village,and beat anumber of villagers, including an 88-year old woman, who attempted totravel toJinjiang to attend the hearing. Outside the courthouse, police seizedandbriefly detained journalist He Huagao (何华高) of theInformation Times newspaper.
In addition to the “crimes” forwhich Lü waseventually convicted, he was originally charged with “organizing andleading atriad-like organization.” However, officials abandoned this charge, andfocusedinstead on Lü’s position as an elected leader. Lü was convicted alongwitheight other villagers, who were given sentences ranging from six months(suspended for one year) to three years in prison. All of Lü’sco-defendantsare believed to be major actors in resisting the government’s land grabbypersistently petitioning the government in recent years. That Lü’ssentence wasso disproportionately severe testifies to local officials’ concernsover hisinfluence.
The caseagainst Lü and his eight fellowvillagers bears a striking resemblance to an ongoing case againstelectedvillage director Xu Kun (许坤) and five other villagers inBaihutouVillage, Beihai City, Guangxi Province. Xu has led villagers inresisting theforced requisition of beachfront land in the village, where residentshad operatedsmall businesses to supplement their meager income from fishing. Xu andoneother villager have been detained without trial since May 2010 for“operatingan illegal business.” In June, two other villagers were sentenced totwo yearsin prison for “obstructing official business,” while one was given oneand ahalf years for the same charge.[iii]
“Villageelections are supposed to givevillagers the chance to elect leaders who will defend their interestsandadvocate on their behalf,” said Ms. Xia, “But when the people speak outagainstland expropriation, what happens to the village directors who stand upforthem? They are simply silenced.”
Prominenthuman rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan(刘晓原), who defended Lü in court, haswrittenextensively (in Chinese) about the case on his personal blog. See, forexample:
“Lü JiangboSentenced to Eleven Years inFirst Trial” (吕江波一审获刑十一年), October29, 2010, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_49daf0ea0100m6l6.html
“Lü JiangboTrial Hearing Concludes;Categorically Denies Involvement in ‘Criminal Underworld’” (吕江波案庭审结束，均不承认是“黑社会”), September 10, 2010, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_49daf0ea0100l6p7.html
“Lü Jiangbo‘OneCrime Becomes Eight Crimes’ Case, Sent Back for SupplementaryInvestigation” (吕江波“一罪变八罪”案，被退回补充侦查), July 2, 2010, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_49daf0ea0100jnhv.html.
Renee Xia, InternationalDirector (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286
Wang Songlian, ResearchCoordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 1660
[i] See, for example, SouthernWindow, “福建晋江一个千万富翁的参政经历,” February 18, 2004, available at http://www.chinaelections.org/NewsInfo.asp?NewsID=65648.
[ii] Shuanggui, which isadministered by the Communist Party, was imposed on Lü despite the factthat heis not a Party member.
[iii] Zhang Chunqiong (张春琼) and Gao Shifu (高世福) were detainedalong with Xu and charged with “operating an illegalbusiness;” Zhang was released on bail on October 12, 2010. The threevillagerswho were convicted of “obstructing official business” and sentenced inJune 2010are Gao Zhenzhang (高镇章) and Gao Shihui (高世辉), who were sentenced to two years inprison, and Cai Jianyue (蔡建月), who was given one and a halfyears.
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