HONG KONG—Authorities in China's southwestern Guangxi province have refused bail for a detained elected village chief championing land rights, as more villagers are held up in a simmering dispute that highlights rapid development encroaching on village land.
The wife of Xu Kun, an elected village official who led local people in a fight against the land requisition and forced demolitions near Beihai city, said she was told by the prosecutor's office that he might not be released until more villagers are rounded up.
"I went to the prosecutor's office," said Feng Guangmei. "He told me that in Xu Kun's case, there were still a few fugitives that they hadn't managed to catch."
"He said that his case wasn't suited to bail," Feng said.
Fellow defendent Zhang Chunqiong had already been sent home on bail, however, she said.
"They just won't allow Xu Kun ... to do the same."
Xu was detained on May 14 and charged with “illegally operating a business.”
Overseas rights groups say that authorities have not allowed Xu to meet with his lawyer Zheng Jianwei, claiming that his case involves state secrets.
Feng said fellow land protesters He Xianfu and his wife were also detained by police in Baihutou village on Nov. 8.
"Now they have detained two more people," Feng said. "It was the police from our local station and from the Yinhai district police department [in Beihai city]."
"There were about 10 [police officers], and they forced them into their police vehicle," she said.
"There was no paperwork to inform them of what was happening to them. I heard that they have already been taken to the detention center," Feng added.
Local sources said He was being held in the Beihai No. 2 Detention Center, but that no one had yet found out where his wife, Yi Chenying, was being held.
The detention of Baihutou villagers are linked to a land dispute between officials and several hundred local residents who resisted the demolition of their village committee building.
The dispute escalated into clashes with more than 100 police officers on Oct. 30, 2009.
"Obstructing official business"
Officials at the Yinhai People’s Court in Beihai meted out sentences to three other Baihutou residents guilty of “obstructing official business” on June 11.
Father and son Gao Zhenzhang and Gao Shihui were handed jail terms of two years each, while a third defendant, Cai Jianyue, received one-and-a-half years.
One relative of the Gao family later died in hospital from police beatings, his relative said.
Gao Zhenzhang’s other son, Gao Shifu was detained on May 26, on suspicion of “illegally operating a business.” The family has received no information on his status.
The dispute was sparked four years ago after local officials took 125.5 acres (51 hectares) of village land for tourism development with no consultation, villagers said.
Officials from the local court visited the villagers this week for "chats," residents said.
"They were afraid we would put up slogans on the walls," said the wife of Feng Wenjian, whose house was forcibly demolished last week.
"We don't know what to do now," she said. "We have nowhere to live."
"I was going put up a makeshift shack and live in that, but they won't let me because they think I'll paint slogans on the walls."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.