12/07/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Sichuan: environmental protester executed

Chen Tao had protested against a government project that would have resulted in the forced eviction of 100,000 people. Another three protesters were condemned, one to life imprisonment. Their lawyers said the trial was conducted behind closed doors and they were unable to defend their clients.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A court in the central Sichuan province secretly executed a man who took part in an anti-pollution protest in 2004 which degenerated into a clash with police, according to a local lawyer. He said: “Three other protesters arrested with him were jailed, one of them for life.”

The executed man, Chen Tao, and the other three defendants had been among thousands of people who protested in 2004 against a hydropower project that would uproot 100,000 people from their homes.

Cai Dengming, whose son was Chen's co-defendant, said Chen was accused of "deliberately killing" a riot policeman during the protest.

Cai said he went to visit his son at Ya’an prison where he was imprisoned, and “the officers there told me that Chen Tao had been executed”.

Ran Tong, the defence lawyer of Cai’s son, said he had only found out about the verdict “on 4 December, when I received the sentence sheet containing the defendants’ names and sentences, already carried out.”

Ran continued: "The court had sentenced them in June, but behind closed doors, and we only got the information almost half a year later. We were not able to defend our clients, and I strongly oppose the court not respecting the spirit of law." The other two protesters were condemned to 12 and 15 years in prison.

Beijing is failing to prevent anti-government rallies that often degenerate into clashes with police. Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang has said they are on the rise: in 1994, there were 10,000 and in 2004, there were more than 74,000. In 2005, more than 87,000 public protests took place in China.

Everyday, Beijing records between 120 and 230 protests, mostly in rural areas. Local administrators seize land and sell them to companies and industries eager to expand production or to implement ostentatious projects. Residents stripped of their land and badly compensated have no other way but to protest, often violently.

The government fears this trend and is continually organizing anti-corruption campaigns: the latest, launched on 13 November, demands that local officials manage the relocation of evicted people fairly.

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