Former China city chief gets life over riot
Thu Feb 9, 2006 6:34 AM ET
EIJING (Reuters) - The disgraced former Communist Party chief of a city in northern China was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for his role in one of the bloodiest rural riots in recent years, victims and their families said.
A court in Handan in Hebei province convicted He Feng, former party chief of Dingzhou city, of hiring thugs to beat up villagers for protesting against low compensation for land seized to make way for a power plant last June.
"He Feng should have been sentenced to death. He organised and planned it ... This verdict was too lenient," Wei Long, who was injured in the attack and whose mother and uncle are still in hospital, told Reuters by telephone.
The Ministry of Public Security has put the total number of "public order disturbances, obstructions of justice, gatherings of mobs and stirring up of trouble" at 87,000 last year, up 6.6 percent from 2004. Reuters 2006.
And unrest is clearly on the rise in China as a whole. There were 87,000 civil disturbances last year — 238 a day — compared with just 8,700 in 1993, according to police statistics. Many involve peasants protesting the confiscation of their land for development purposes, but they are often equally angry about environmental degradation and official corruption. Protests by the urban poor against large-scale layoffs and predatory developers are common.
But villagers are obviously fearful about telling their story to outsiders. Panlong locals speak of being hauled off to lengthy government-run "meetings" or "classes" aimed at forcing them to maintain silence about the clashes. Some village residents say police tap their phones. Chinese media have largely been barred from reporting on the clashes, and the local government has declined requests by foreign journalists to travel to these villages. I entered Panlong and Taishi freely but was picked up by police on my way out of both villages. Authorities deleted my digital pictures of Taishi. Reporting without official permission remains illegal in China.
Peasants account for two-thirds of China's population yet receive just 20% of all medical services and similarly low percentages of education and social security spending. Correcting this imbalance without offending urbanites will be a delicate task, to say the least.
February 11, 2006
latimes.com By Anthony Kuhn
Darren Russell, 35, went to China to teach English. His mother, Maxine, says his contract promised a lot of things that didn't materialize, including a work visa.
She says when Darren threatened to blow the whistle on the poor working conditions there, he felt that his life was placed in danger.
Maxine says Darren called to tell her he was removed from the school and dropped off in a seedy section of Guangzhou.
"They took his passport away and they said it had to be held by the police," said Maxine.
Sensing danger, Maxine said she asked the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to intervene.
But how did Darren die? The Chinese government says he was hit by a truck.
"There was a complete absence of abrasions, lacerations, fractures. There was no evidence of an auto accident of any kind," said mortician Jerry Marek.POSTED: 12:34 pm PST February 8, 2006 NBC4.tv