'My Family is Afraid for My Safety'

The daughter of an activist who died in Wukan protests explains why she wants to join village politics.
2012-03-01
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Xue Jianwan, whose father died in Wukan protests, talks on the phone, Dec. 15, 2011.
AFP

Xue Jianwan is the outspoken daughter of a local political activist who died in police custody during violent protests in the rebel Guangdong village of Wukan in December 2011. Her family is in a continuing dispute with the authorities over the cause of death and the return of his body. While police say her father, Xue Jinbo, died of a heart attack, Xue Jianwan and other family members who identified the body say it was covered in injuries from head to foot.

Now, Xue has been forced out of her post as a primary school teacher because of her activism and candidacy in forthcoming elections to the village committee, where she will run for the post of deputy chairman. She told an election rally on March 1, 2012 about her reasons for leaving a secure, civil service job for the murky world of Chinese village politics:

"The school has told me several times that if I plan to run for the village committee, then I must resign from my job," she told the crowd at a meeting in the village square, outside the temple to the sea-goddess Matsu, whose legendary life was said to be dedicated to rescuing her male relatives from danger.

"My mind was made up that I would stand, so the school fired me, but I don't care, because I think that it's more meaningful to do something for the people of this village than to be a civil service teacher," Xue said.

"I also want to do something for my father, to carry out his wishes."

She said that while the loss of her job had been something of a relief to her, because she was no longer pressured into keeping a low profile, her family was concerned for their safety amid the continuing dispute over the cause of her father's death.

"They are worried that it will be dangerous to follow in my father's footsteps," Xue said.

"They worry about how I will make a living, and that my younger siblings studying elsewhere in China will be affected."

"They are worried about my personal safety and the safety of other family members...but I am not afraid of this. They are also concerned that our family will be ruined."

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.