10/10/2005, 00.00
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After getting beaten, an anti-corruption elected official disappears on his way to Taishi

A 34-year-old politician was stopped as he was making his way with a British journalist to a village fighting for democracy. After being savagely beaten, he vanished. His colleagues are certain the authorities backed the criminal action.

Taishi (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A Chinese elected official has disappeared after being dragged from his car and beaten while travelling to Taishi, a village in Guangdong province, with a journalist working for a British newspaper The Guardian. At present, the fate of Lu Banglie, a Member of Zhijiang People's Assembly (East Central Hubei Province) is unknown.

Mr Lu had been advising Taishi residents on ways to oust unpopular village chief Chen Jinsheng, who has been accused of corruption, through electoral procedures.

For month local residents have been waging a tug-of-war with local authorities trying to remove the village chief.

Actions by Taishi residents, who had taken to heart President Hu Jintao's anti-corruption campaign, had elicited solidarity among many politicians and lawyers across the country.

Lu and British journalist Benjamin Joffe-Walt, and the latter's Chinese assistant, were stopped at a roadblock where, according to a colleague of Joffe-Walt, they were met about five men in police uniforms and another five in army uniforms.

However, the uniformed men soon left the area, leaving 20 to 30 men in civilian clothes who dragged Mr Lu from the car and started beating him. Even though he was soon unconscious, the assault continued for another 10 minutes.

"He was extremely badly beaten and we don't know if he is alive or dead. When Benjamin [Joffe-Walt] last saw him, he was lying unconscious by the side of the road," said Jonathan Watts, The Guardian's Beijing correspondent. He is certain the aggressors were aware of Mr Lu's identity.

Joffe-Walt received "a few slaps" after he was removed from the car and had his mobile phone smashed. He was taken to a government office in Yuwoutou township and later released

One internet report said Mr Lu was taken to Datong Hospital in Yuwoutou at about 11pm on Saturday, four hours after the beating. However, the hospital denied Mr Lu had been admitted. His mobile phone had been turned off.

"Nobody has any news about [Mr Lu]," said Guo Yan, a lawyer representing activist Yang Maodong, who was detained for helping Taishi villagers in their struggle to remove Mr Chen.

Gao Zhisheng, another lawyer representing Mr Yang, said he believed local authorities were collaborating with gangsters, and the violence was backed by city and even provincial authorities.

Mr Lu is divorced and living with his 83-year-old mother. He was elected as chief of Baoyuesi village in Hubei in 2003.

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See also
"Dictatorial and corrupt" Chinese politicians oppressing farmers
Beijing "bows to media pressure" and releases Taishi activists
Taishi village, a test for democracy (Overview)
Taro Aso, a new course in Japanese political life
5 years in prison for denouncing government corruption


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