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A true story about Taishi village incident
Updated: 2005-10-21 18:34

A spokesman for the Panyu District government, Guangzhou City, in South China, in an interview with www.southcn.com on October 21, revealed a detailed and complete story about the Taishi Village incident, involving the villagers' bid to recall the elected village head, and its aftermath. The following is a digest of the exclusive interview. 

The process - from the time when some villagers proposed to recall village head to the time when the recall motion became invalid

Taishi Village is located north of Yuwotou Town in Panyu District, with permanent residents of 2,040 and registered voters of 1,502. In recent years, the village economy has recorded a rapid growth. In 2004, net revenues of the village's collective economy reached 4.81 million yuan, 3.1 times of the amount of 2001. The current Village Administrave Committee head (or director), Chen Jinsheng, was first elected in October 1998, and was reelected in last April.

In early May, a villager surnamed Liang was elected as the leader of a village group. During the election, Liang promised that if elected, he would distribute each villager 10,000 yuan from land acquisition proceeds and donate a plot of land to the village. After Liang was elected, the villagers demanded that he fulfill his avow, so Liang, together with villager Feng and another villager, went to the Village Administrative Committee which was asked to distribute money. But the three were refused. They then appealed to higher authorities concerning the distribution of land acquisition fees and the finance management of Taishi village several times. The village committee, town and district authorities explained the legal issues attentively to the three, quoting relevant State and provincial policies.

But Liang and Feng were not satisfied. Later they demanded the village committee to pay them more than 100,000 yuan as "appeal compensation fee", and their new request was rejected outright by the village committee. Then, they began to seek  "outside help" , trying to cause a trouble for the committee.

Introduced by another villager surnamed He, they got to recognize and collaborated with Yang Maodong, who is a legal advisor with the Beijing-based Shengzhi Law Office, and Lu Banglie, who is a deputy of Hubei Province's Zhijiang City People's Congress. On July 29, following the advice of Yang Maodong an Lu Banglie, Liang and Feng went to the Panyu District Civil Affairs Bureau to submit a photocopy of a motion to recall the village committee head Chen Jinsheng, with the signatures of more than 400 villagers, accusing  Chen and the committee for undergoing "bribery during the re-election campaign,"  "selling village land illegally during hi first term", and "not explaining to villagers where the land selling proceeds went." However, they did not submit the original copy of the signed motion, which is required by law for starting a recall.

On August 3, they instigated about 100 villagers to take the village committee office building by force, besieging it and even restricting the freedom of the village committee officials, which caused village committee no longer functional. On August 16, Liang and Feng organized about 150 villagers to prevent the police from enforcing their duties for more than 2 hours when the policemen were trying to detain those villagers who organized others to obstruct the work of the village commitee by occupying it by force. On August 31 and September 2, Feng and Liang, together with some other villagers, went to stage a sit-in protest on the sidewalk to the east gate of the Panyu District government.

On September 5, Feng Qiusheng and several others submitted the original copy of the motion to recall Taishi village committee head Chen Jinsheng with the signature of 892 villagers. The Panyu District civil affairs bureau immediately asked the town government to validate and verify the signatures. The vefification found that some names were fake, and the names of some dead people were also among the motion signatures, but 584 signatures were determined to be true and valid. The number was enough to start a recall procedure as stipulated by law. Then, the legal procedure to impeach the village committee director began.

On September 3, Taishi held a villager representatives' meeting. At the meeting, it was agreed, through voting, to carry out an audit of the "25 problems" allegedly to exist with the village committee. From September 12-16, Panyu District government dispatched a work group to audit the finances of the village, giving a detailed check to the "25 problems" brought up by the villagers. At the same time, the Panyu District Civil Affairs Bureau directed the village to follow the law to form a recall committee with seven villagers. Later, Panyu District Government made public the audit and investigation results to more than 500 Taishi villager representatives.

After the investigation and audit results were made public, most of the villagers who signed on the recall motion came to know the truth, many said the original alleged reasons to recall the village head did not hold, and therefore withdrew their signatures from the recall motion. Between September 26 and 28, the village recall committee validated the number of voters who requested withdrawing signature,and confirmed that,of 584 original villagers who signed the recall motion, 396 requested withdrawal. Thus, the final confirmed number of valid signatures was only 188, which was fewer than one-fifth of the total number of the registered Taishi voters(1,502). Thus, the recall motion no longer met the legal requirement. The Taishi village recall committee declared on September 29 that the motion to recall village committee head Chen Jinsheng automatically ceased to be valid.

The government departments perform the duties according to law and responsive to villagers demands and needs

In handling the Taish recall incident, the Panyu district and Yuwotou town governments abided by laws and responded to the villagers' demands and needs, and guided the villagers to solve any problem via legitimate channels.

After receiving the photocopy of the recall motion signed by more than 400 Taishi villagers on July 29, the district's civil affairs bureau explained, seven times, to the visitors about laws, regulations, procedures and requirements for impeachment of village committee members. The bureau told them that they would have to produce a valid document of the recall motion, and submitted motion according to law. During the period, the director of the district civil affairs bureau and persons directly handling the matter explained, respectively on August 12, 31, September 1 and 2, the legal procedures and requirements for recalling village committee head at the gate of the Yuwotou town committee, the east gate of the district government and the Yuwotou primary school, and they also publicized the laws and procedures through TV and broadcasting methods.

After villagers first submitted the recall motion to the district civil affairs bureau on September 5, the bureau immediately asked the Yuwotou town government to issue a notice on September 6 to validate and verify the names. The verification results were announced by Yuwotou town government in the evening of September 8, confirming that the number of signatures on the motion had exceeded one-fifth of the total registered voters of Taishi, that it made the number of people required, that the recall motion was valid. In the morning of September 13, the district civil affairs bureau made public the "operation procedures for recalling village committee head" and the "schedule for recalling the (3rd elected) village committee head of Taishi Village of Yuwotou Town". On September 16, the Taishi villagers representatives after a meeting selected, through vote, seven members of villagers, to consist the village recall committee. 

When most villagers who signed the motion came to know the audit results and investigation findings of the village committee and Chen Jinsheng, they requested to withdraw recall signatures. On September 29, when the number of people who signed motion to recall the village committee head failed to meet the legal quorum, the Taishi village recall committee declared, according to law, the motion to recall village head Chen Jinsheng automatically ceased to be valid.

In the entire process, from the acceptance of the recall motion submitted by villagers to the declaration of invalidity of the motion, relevant government departments all handled it according to law.

Police handled the incident in accordance with law

In handling the Taishi recall incident, the Panyu branch of the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau dealt with the issue strictly according to law, and explained relevant laws to the villagers. They enforced their duties entrusted by the law and helped maintain order in the village. From the evening of August 3, some 100 villagers took the village committee office building by force under the name of "protecting the accounting ledgers," causing the normal activities of the village committee to a standstill. The Yuwotou town government directed relevant departments to explain to the villagers law procedures. Afterwards, the Panyu public security bureau issued a notice on August 13, asking the villagers to abide by the law and stopping their illegal occupation of the village committe office building. Some villagers, however, continued their occupation under the instigation by some people.

On August 16, police from the Panyu the public security bureau detained those who organized some villagers to obstruct police from law enforcement. On September 12, Panyu public security bureau evicted those who had been illegally occupying the village office building for more than a month. The police officers were lightly armed during the eviction action. They did not fight back when being hit and scolded, and four police officers suffered slight injuries. During the process of law enforcement, the public security departments strictly abided by law and there was no so-called "violent and bloodshed act" as reported by some overseas media outlets.

Some overseas media have claimed that a "bloody crackdown tragedy" had occurred in Taishi, saying the police had "crushed" the villagers. These have been proved to be  groundless lies and deliberate fabrications.

Yang Maodong, Lu Banglie involved in the Taish incident

Yang Maodong, with a Web name called "Guo Feixiong", is a legal adviser in the Beijing-based Shengzhi Law Office. Lu Banglie, a deputy of Zhijiang City people's congress in Central China's Hubei Province, had launched the country's first campaign to oust the director of a village committee.  Yang and Lu were the plotters and organizers of the Taishi village recall incident. They not only mobilized villagers to stage a "hunger strike", but also instigated some villagers to confront law enforcement officers, seriously disrupting the stability of the Taishi Village.

Yang Maodong had instructed Lu Banglie and others to mount activities in Taishi village, and instigated villagers to persist and tried to mobilize more to join after some villagers stormed and took control of the village committee building. He also called upon the villagers to appeal and stage hunger strikes. Yang Maodong kept himself updated on the "latest developments" in Taishi village, and then tried all means to exploit foreign media and websites to spread distorted reports and rumors.

To name an example, on August 17, he sent emails to all kinds of media titled "Bloodshed in Guangzhou suburbs, government sends riot police to beat villagers asking for reelection of village officials", in an attempt to make up stories to mislead the public. Worse of the person, Yang tried to cheat villagers for his personal gains under the pretext of safeguarding villagers rights. Police investigation has found that Yang collected more than 40,000 yuan from Taishi villagers, which was raised illegally. On September 13, he was detained by Panyu public security bureau over charges of mobilizing and instigating villagers to disrupt social orders. He was arrested on October 5. He is now in good condition, and is not staging a hunger strike in the detention room as claimed by some foreign reports.

Lu Banglie had taken part in drafting the recall motion, a public letter to Taishi villagers and other documents, and instructed people to collect signatures. He also organized sit-ins and hunger strikes to exert pressure on relevant departments. Lu Banglie had been educated by the Zhijiang City People's Congress of Hubei Province where his residence is registered.

Report on the "beating" of Lu Banglie and overseas reporter was fabricated

Around 8:40 pm on September 8, some Taishi villagers found that Lu Banglie came with two stranger foreigners driving into the village in a taxi. They were stopped near the Taishi Secondary School by some villagers, because Lu Bangjie came to the village very often in that period and villagers were not happy with him. This time, he arrived with two stranger foreigners in straw hats. The villagers warned Lu not to stir up trouble there because they won't listen to him anymore. The villagers told them to leave immediately, but they kept hanging around in the village. The two foreign men, claiming to be reporters working for a British newspaper but refusing to show any identification, excused that they came for a report on orphan adoption in Taishi. Villagers' suspicion over the trio climbed, as there was obviously no orphan in their village.

Upon realizing that they could hardly entered the village under whatever pretext, the trio then attempted to force their way in and a heated spat escalated to some pushing and shoving. Lu Bangjie claimed he was injured. At 8:50 pm, the Yuwotou police received an alert and rushed to the scene to restore order. The three were later taken to the town government building. After questioning, the two foreigners were identified as the Guardian (UK)'s Shanghai-based correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt and the Singaporean Tang Guoye, an employee of a Shanghai-based translation company. Since they were not able to show any documents of permission filed by relevant foreign affairs department, the Yuwotou police briefed them it was illegal for them to gather information without the permission of the provincial and city-level foreign affairs departments.

After that,to ensure their safety, the town government drove them back to the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. The two foreigners were not hurt at all during the incident.It was sheer rumor to say that Benjamin Joffe-Walt was assaulted. The Britain-based newspaper Guardian later learned that their reporter' information collection without permission is against the Chinese law, therefore they issued apology to relative authorities.

Since Lu Banglie claimed to have been injured, the Yuwotou police sent Lu to the town hospital for a full physical examination including CT and other procedures. The doctors said that Lu was normal except for some light scratches on his hands. As Lu was a deputy of the people's congress, the relevant persons called the standing committee of the Zhijiang City people's congress of Hubei Province, where Lu's household is registered. At 10:41 pm, the Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee replied and asked the Panyu District people's congress to bring Lu Banglie back to Zhijiang. The Panyu people's congress then arranged for workers to take Lu back to Zhijiang. At 7:30 pm on September 9, Lu Banglie arrived at Zhijiang City in Hubei Province. The Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee immediately arranged for Lu Banglie to be examined at the Bailizhou town hospital. On the morning of October 10, they brought Lu Banglie to the Zhijiang City People's Hospital for a further examination while asking the legal medical expert of the Zhijiang City Public Security Bureau to be in attendance. After repeated examinations, except for the legal medical expert identifying the light scratches on his arm (believed to have been caused during the pushing and shoving with the villagers when Lu insisted on entering), Lu was deemed to be normal otherwise. Afterwards, Lu Banglie signed his name and endorsed on the town and city hospital examination results. Therefore, the rumored "bloodshed" in which Lu Banglie was seriously beaten or killed was fabricated.

The life of Taishi people has returned to normal

Investigation and audit work into the Taishi Village committee and its head Chen Jinsheng, by the Panyu District working group, have found no serious economic malpractices, although, the group suggested there are room to be improved with the village committee' routine work and administration.

Lately, the village committee headed by Chen has drafted several bills to redress previous conditions, such as the improvement of the infrastructures for culture and entertainment in local schools, building the village's center park, and improvment concerning villagers' working conditions. The bills are worked out after soliciting villagers opinions and suggestions. In addition, the Taishi village committee has decided to enhance its administrative ability while coping with village affairs and trying to increase village finance transparency. Monthly village meeting are now planned to address big village issues, including the overall  development of Taishi, distribution of village income, and the land use. Opinions of the majorty villagers would be taken into accout when a decision is made, and the final decision would be made known to all villagers. It is expected that Taishi will see a more healthy advancement on the basis of a sufficient respect to villagers' opinions and rights.

The life of Taishi villagers has come back to normal.

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