05/04/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Village chief goes to Beijing eight times because of land seizures

Local officials mistreat and use violence against Weiwu village chief Xu Jianguo, but he is back in the capital to petition the central government, demanding justice for his village whose lands have been stolen by local Communists.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After five years of arrests and violent treatment by local Communist officials, a rural village chief in the eastern province of Jilin has returned to Beijing to petition the central government in the hope that government leaders will intervene against land seizures.

Weiwu village chief Xu Jianguo is one of the tens of thousands of visitors to the State Petition Office who every year demand justice from national leaders. For years the latter urged the population to complain, only to ignore them.

Mr Xu, 49, said that for the past five years he has played hide-and-seek with officials from his village and Xiaojia Township to which the village belong; however, these officials have never listened to his complaints and continued seizing land from the local population.

Right now, what worries him the most is his family. “I am just worried about my wife and son. They are under great pressure as local officials have harassed them since I left the village,” he said. “But it will not stop me from petitioning because I believe that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will solve our problem one day.”

Mr Xu said he was obliged to speak up for the villagers when he was elected village chief in 2004. He explained that his predecessor had cheated Weiwu villagers into selling 120 hectares of their land to a neighbouring village but had failed to ensure they were paid compensation. He alleges his village's former party secretary, Zhang Fuguo, has since absconded with 3 million yuan in public funds.

Because he kept going to Beijing to petition, Weiwu village party secretary Lo Jide refused to pay Mr Xu his salary and even unilaterally stated that he had been fired, although a dismissal would require the approval of two-thirds of the villagers.

His courage has cost him a lot. According to villager Zhang Qingjin, he was beaten up several times by thugs. “He was sent to the hospital three times over the past few years,” Ms Zhang said. “But no one has been arrested so far as local police were all reluctant to act.”

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