Former Village Official Detained

A former elected chief in China is targeted after calling for transparency from local officials.

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china-land-305.jpg Chinese villagers protest government land seizures in Guilin, Guangxi province, Oct. 9, 2010.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained a former elected village chief after he called online for local officials to make their accounts public.

Li Naidi, former elected chief of Dongdai village in Guangdong's Huilai county, penned an open letter earlier this month accusing local village and township officials of corruption and calling for more transparency.

He was recently formally charged with "illegal land sales" by the county-level procuratorate, or state prosecutor, his son said on Tuesday.

"My father wanted the village accounts to be made public, and this annoyed the village Party committee and the government officials who were involved," Li's son said.

"They arrested my dad and they haven't published the accounts, because they are afraid of revealing the scandal," he said, adding that the family had tried to visit Li at the local detention center, but had been refused permission to see him.

He denied his father had been involved in illegal land speculation.

"The sale took place in 2006 and things were very clear at the time, and all the formalities and documents were in order," he said. "Why didn't anyone say there was a problem at the time?"

"They are doing this out of revenge for my father's actions," he said.

Promoting transparency

Li, 63, was elected three times in succession as the head of the village and also to the Huilai county People's Congress and the township People's Congress.

Dongdai resident Li Bin said Li Naidi had won the trust of local people during his term in office, and had made all the village accounts open to the public.

He had been ousted from his post with the arrival of Li Cheng, an official villagers say had the backing of local criminal gangs who had proceeded to sell off large amounts of village land.

"After he took office, a lot of village land got sold off," Li Bin said. "There were a lot of fake receipts ... and the accounts got all messed up."

"They basically don't dare to make them public, so they have arrested our former village chief."

Village elections

Village elections have been held in China since 1988, with some villages voting in candidates who champion their rights and insist on better standards of government.

But they often fight a rearguard action against powerful vested interests in local government, who reap huge profits from land sales in a booming property market.

Village committees have key powers over land and property rights in their locality, and are required to hold elections every three years for new members.

However, an attempt in 2005 by residents of Guangdong's Taishi village to recall a village chief they said was corrupt ended in violent suppression of protests by armed police.

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


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