Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have sent nine residents of the rebel village of Wukan to prison to begin serving sentences ranging from two to 10 years for their involvement in resistance to an armed police raid, without giving them a chance to appeal.
The nine were sentenced by the Haifeng County People's Court on Dec. 26 for their part in resisting a raid that put an end to months of daily mass protest in Wukan following the loss of village land and the jailing of its former leader Lin Zuluan.
They were found guilty of charges that included "unlawful assembly," "disrupting public order," "disrupting traffic," "obstructing official business," and "intentionally spreading false information."
Hundreds of armed police in full riot gear raided the village on Sept. 13 and broke up the demonstrations, firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd which barricaded the streets and fought back with bricks.
"Officials have blocked communication channels from and into the village, and retaliated against those who have shared information about the police activity," said the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, a coalition of Chinese and international human rights nongovernmental organizations, in a statement on its website.
U.S.-based Zhuang Liehong, whose father Zhuang Songkun received a three-year jail term, said the nine have now been sent to prison from where they were being held in police-run detention centers, without the chance to appeal.
"The lawyer I hired to represent my father wasn't able to be of any use when it came to appealing," Zhuang said. "All nine defendants said during their sentencing hearing on Dec. 26 that they rejected the verdicts."
"They all said at the time that they wanted to appeal," he said.
But his father was transferred to Wujiang jail on Jan. 15 or 16, Zhuang said.
"I am guessing that the other eight villagers were transferred to prison at the same time," he said.
"Our family still hasn't received any official notification [of the transfer]," he said.
Sentences handed down
Of the nine defendants, Wei Yonghan received the heaviest sentence of 10-and-a-half years, while Hong Yongzhong got six-and-a-half years, Yang Jinzhen six years, and Wu Fang five years, the CHRD’s statement said.
Wei and Yang were found guilty of "organizing and inciting the villagers of Wukan to attend illegal meetings, demonstrations."
Wei was also convicted of inciting villagers and "other members of the public" to confrontation with police, throwing stones and bricks at them, and injuring police officers on duty.
Cai Jialin, Chen Suzhuan, Li Chulu and Zhuang Songshen were jailed for three years apiece, while Zhang Bingchai was handed a two-year sentence.
Li Chulu, Cai Jialin, and Zhuang Songkun "rode their motorcycles to intercept passing vehicles, causing serious disruption to traffic," according to their indictment notice.
Wukan villagers have been campaigning for the return of land sold out from under them by former village chief Xue Chang, who was fired for corruption after an earlier round of protests and clashes in 2011, sparking fresh elections that saw Lin Zuluan take the helm.
But even Lin and his newly-elected village committee found it hard to secure the return of the land amid powerful vested interests, political changes higher up, and a tangle of complex legal issues.
September's raid by police on Wukan came after a court in Guangdong's Foshan city sentenced Lin to more than three years' imprisonment on "bribery" charges that local residents said were trumped up.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.