In early October, authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong formally detained Fan Shuihe, head of a village near Lianzhou, and accused him of leading a protest. Fellow villager Fan Shunhui was also detained following a tense standoff between police and protesters over the control of an underground river and limestone caves. The majority of the land around Dadong was leased to the villagers under the post-1979 responsibility system brought in by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping. However, the Lianzhou city government wrested control of a local tourist attraction, an underground river with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, away from the village committee, offering compensation that villagers say was far below the value of the business. Now, villagers are afraid to continue their protests, and the story of the detained men is taken up by their female relatives:
[My father] was detained in the afternoon [of Oct. 3] for gathering a crowd to cause a disturbance, and for disrupting traffic. He never went [to the barricades] ... I think they are trying to say that he orchestrated it, because he's the head of the village. We don't even know how long they will detain him for on these charges of gathering a crowd to cause trouble. My father's health is very poor—very poor indeed.
Lawyer Peng went to visit my father [recently], and told them they would have to release my father within 37 days. There was another guy, Fan Shunhui who was detained as well. His girlfriend told me that he was a very lively, spirited person, and none of us could believe he'd been detained. No one in the village dares to barricade the roads any more, but the villagers are all very angry. They are saying that the police have acted like bandits.
Fan Shunhui's niece, Ms. Chen:
We have received no official notification of any kind. That evening, when they were detained, there were three cops from Lianzhou city there, and two from a police station in Guangzhou. They came and told us to open up the door. They detained them downstairs. After they came inside the house, they searched absolutely everything. They saw we had a computer sitting there on the table, and they took it away for investigation. I told them that the computer was mine, and that they shouldn't take it. They said they were looking for firm evidence, now that they were here. Everything happened in such a rush, and they were very forceful. I had never seen anything like this before. I was dead scared at the time. It didn't know what to do.
They showed no warrant or anything like that. After 24 hours, we went to the police station to ask what exactly he had done wrong and where he was now. They checked on their computer and found no record of this incident. They couldn't find any evidence of it at all. I asked them where [my uncle] was, and they called some people who were on duty and the police officer said that he seemed to have been detained by the Lianzhou municipal police department and taken to Lianzhou.
Such a long time has passed, and we called the [local] police and the Lianzhou municipal police on Oct. 29, but no one picked up the phone.
They just don't answer it.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.