Chinese Lawyer Receives Death Threats for Defending Land Grab Victims

16 September, 2011 at 08:56 | Posted in China, human rights, persecution | Leave a comment
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By Tang Yin
Sound of Hope Radio

A lawyer in China’s eastern Shandong Province has become a target of retaliation by local officials after taking a case against illegal farmland expropriation.

Shu Xiangxin, the head of Xuzhou Law Firm in Jinan City of Shandong Province, told Sound of Hope Radio in a recent interview how officials of a small county threatened him and his family with death and withheld his license after he rejected their bribes.

Shu said he filed a lawsuit in March against the Party secretary of Guan County on behalf of two villagers of Zhangyizhuang Village in Guan County. The county government had expropriated more than 200 mu (33 acres) of village farmland without any legal procedures. The villagers refused to surrender the land only to find that their crops were dug up and destroyed by excavators.

On March 27, the director of Guan County and the director of the Legislative Affairs Office visited Shu’s law firm offering him money in exchange of his terminating his contract with the villagers, but Shu rejected them.

Four days later, an online message, posted with Shu’s consent, accused the Guan County Party secretary of illegally expropriating farmland.
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The following day, the Guan County government sent four thugs to Shu’s law firm, but Shu was absent at the time. The thugs assaulted his two colleagues, which was captured by a video camera installed in the office.

The thugs then kept calling Shu and telling him that they had full details of his home address and his two sons.

“They brazenly threatened my kids’ safety,” Shu said.

On April 3, Shu uploaded the photos and video of the thugs threatening and assaulting his colleagues at his office.

The next day, over one hundred “50-cent Party” commentators–an army of people paid to write pro-government Internet comments–posted online messages insulting and intimating Shu, including threatening him and his family with death.

On Aril 7, Shu’s law firm website was shut down and his e-mail was inundated with junk mail.

On April 13, the Guan County Disciplinary Committee secretary and a local enterprise’s CEO paid Shu a visit and offered him a job as legal consultant, which Shu also turned down.

Afterwards, the Jinan City Bureau of Justice suddenly asked Shu to submit a report for an impending investigation against him.

On April 25, the Bureau of Justice postponed the annual review of Shu’s law firm and withheld his lawyer license.

Shu’s clients, however, were meanwhile able to successfully negotiate with Guan County officials to keep their farmland.

The case has created quite a public stir in the area, and many other villagers have since gone to Shu for legal help.

But the case also alarmed higher-up authorities in Shandong Province according to Shu. On June 8, officers from the Jinan Public Security Bureau took Shu away for interrogation while he was attending his niece’s wedding banquet. Police also took away all the files from his office, basically shutting him down.

“We could no longer take on any cases, so my colleagues all quit,” Shu said.

However, Guan County authorities continued to seize farmland in other places. During the night of Aug. 8, the county mayor sent crews to dig up more than 300 mu (49 acres) of farmland, with crops ready for harvest within just a month, in two villages. And on Aug. 14, many homes in one village were forcibly demolished.

Shu has meanwhile written a letter to local officials asking for a compromise with the authorities in the hope of getting his license back. He said he is still holding on to his law firm, although he is losing money, while waiting for a response from the authorities.

According to a report by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, nearly 10,000 cases of illegal land confiscation by local government officials occurred in the first quarter of 2011 alone.

Prominent Chinese economist and commentator He Qinglian said in a Dec. 2010 blog that never in history have Chinese farmers been in such a vulnerable situation as local government can expropriate any resource from their farmland. “Local governments constantly mobilize police and gangsters to seize land from farmers who lack the power to defend their land, which has become officials’ golden goose,” He said.

Revenues from land sales in 2010 were 2.7 trillion yuan (approx. US$410 billion), accounting for 7.3 percent of China’s GDP, according to data published by theMinistry of Land and Resources.

via Chinese Lawyer Receives Death Threats for Defending Land Grab Victims | China News | Epoch Times

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