Lin Zuluan led protests in 2011 against land grabs by the authorities. Violence broke out again in June when local officials arrested him, failing to honour the commitment they made to end demonstrations. Lin has to pay a 200,000 yuan fine. Riot police surround the courthouse where the sentence was pronounced.
Foshan (AsiaNews) – Lin Zuluan, the former elected leader of Wukan, a village in southern China, was sentenced today to three years and one month in jail and fined 200,000 yuan for taking bribes.
The court in Foshan, near Guangzhou, found Lin not guilty on a separate charge of rigging bids for official contracts.
Ultra-tight security was in place outside the court and in surrounding streets during Lin’s trial.
A source close to his family said the “family felt like they were trapped” and that the family had cooperated with the government over the matter. Because of this, they thought he would get a suspended sentence. Instead, he was remanded into custody in a provincial prison, where he will purge his sentence.
Wukan is a symbol for all of China. Five years ago, it became famous when local residents protested against the wrongdoings of local political leaders. In recent months it was back in the spotlight for the controversial arrest of the former village chief.
Arrested on corruption charges, he has become the symbol of the fight for justice that shook the southern Chinese province in 2011.
His arrest and “confession” on live TV have not calmed tensions in the village, which have been running high for weeks.
Residents have indicated that they are willing to continue their fight for justice and for the return of seized land that sparked the 2011 protest.
Once the village chief and local Communist Party leader, Lin told his fellow citizens from prison to " do what you think is right, even if it goes against the directions of the authorities."
Thousands of people took to the streets on 19 June 2016, and the next day hundreds more signed and posted huge white placards calling for Lin’s release.
"We have to go ahead with the protests,” one protester said. “We believe the village leader is innocent and that he has accepted to bear the blame for us ".
Police warned some residents after some protests. Two people were arrested, Lin’s nephew, Lin Liyi, and his deputy, Cai Lichou.
The issue has also rocked the national leadership. Lin Zuluan was called "a good comrade", and his actions were said to have always complied with the law.
However, an editorial in the Global Times, People's Daily’s English edition, said that disputes over land ownership cannot be settled by democratic means alone; they require rules.
According to several analysts, land expropriation is responsible for almost two thirds of incidents of social unrest. Until a few years ago, the Chinese government published statistics on so-called "mass incidents", which reached 180,000 cases a year in 2010. Since then, it has not released any data.