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Truth of the Taishi village incident
Updated: 2005-10-18 18:02

On October 15, a spokesman of the Panyu district government answered questions by www.southcn.com concerning the Taishi village incident. The following is the transcripts of the questions and answers:

Question 1. Concerning the "recall of official" issue at Taishi village, there are different versions being spread among netizens, and overseas media also have different versions and speculations. Please tell us how the issue of Taishi village came about? What did the local government do during the process of dealing with this problem?

Answer: In mid-April, during the third village committee election, Chen Jinsheng was re-elected head of the village committee. At the start of May, Taishi village held an election for the village team, and villager Liang Shusheng was elected as the leader of the seventh team. Before that election, Liang Shusheng promised that if elected, he would give each villager an extra 10,000 yuan and a patch of land for residences. After he was elected, the villagers demanded that he fulfill his promise. So Liang Shusheng and others went to the village committee many times to demand the distribution of the funds from the land acquisitions. The village committee explained that they could not distribute funds that came from collective land acquisition, because that would run counter to the policies. Afterwards, Liang Shusheng and others demanded the village committee compensate them for about 103 yuan per person as "compensation fees for their hard work." Of course, the village committee rejected this demand. After their unreasonable demands were rejected, Liang Shusheng and others began to seek out "outside help" to aid, assist and plot to recall village committee director Chen Jinsheng.

From the end of July, Liang Shusheng and others claimed that Chen Jinsheng engaged in "bribery during the re-election campaign" as well as "illegally selling land back during this previous term" and "not explaining where the funds from the land sales went." For these reasons, they organized the villagers to recall the village committee director with "25 problems" among the village committee cadres. But it was not until September that they submitted to the bureau of civil affairs a valid document for the recall of Taishi Village committee director Chen Jinsheng with the signature of 892 villagers. Under the direction of the District Civil Affairs Bureau, the town government validated the signatures in accordance with the law. After checking, 584 villager signatures were deemed valid, more than the required number for a recall. Thus the legal process for recalling the current village committee director was started.

During this period, about 100 villagers occupied the village office by force in the name of "protecting the accounting ledgers," causing village committee business to become totally paralyzed. Also, more than 100 villagers went to the east gate of the District Government Office to sit in silent protest on the sidewalk while holding protest banners. When the public security bureau detained individual instigators and organizers, a small number of people persuaded 150 villagers to surround the police cars with the law enforcement officers for more than 2 hours. According to some villagers, the reason why they participated in the recall of the village committee director and took over the village committee office was because they heard the rumor that each of them will get 30,000 RMB if the recall was successful. During the entire process, the district and town governments proceeded strictly according to the law to protect the democratic rights of the villagers. At the same time, they communicated the relevant laws and points of attention to the villagers and lead the villagers to express their own wills and demands in accordance with the law. Concerning the problems about the village committee cadres brought up by some villagers, Panyu District paid a high degree of attention and deal with them earnestly in order to protect the villagers' right to know and democratic governing power. The District government sent out a work team to audit the village financial activities, especially with respect to the problems brought up by some villagers. On 9/20, Panyu District announced the results of the audit and investigation to the Taishi Village party members, brigade leaders and village representatives. On 9/21, the Panyu District announced the same to more than 500 households.

Q2. It is said that some Taishi villagers wanted the recall because they did not know where the funds from the land acquisition in the village went. What were the results of the Taishi village financial audit? Are there financial problems with the current village committee?

A: Concerning the 25 problems brought up by Liang Shusheng about the village cadres, the District party committee and the District government formed a special work group and made a careful audit. They made a serious audit of the financial situation of the village committee and they have announced the audit results to the villagers in a timely manner. The results showed that the majority of the "problems" did not exist. The basic conclusion: "All the audited items were clean; the recording of financial revenues was normal; the investigated problems were clear. There is no proof of anyone damaging collective interests while profiting for themselves."

Q3. Is the process that some villagers have used to recall the village committee director legal? How did the district bureau of civil affairs handle the demand for recall?

A: Concerning the motion to recall from the Taishi villagers, the District Civil Affairs Bureau respects the will of the villagers and follows the law strictly. On July 29, some villagers came to the District Civil Affairs Bureau to submit a photocopy of a motion to recall with the signatures of 400 villagers. The District Civil Affairs Bureau comrade immediately communicated with the villagers, explained the relevant laws, showed them the required documents for the motion to recall and how to submit the motion to either the village party branch or the town government. At the beginning of September, when some villagers submitted the original copy of the motion to recall with signatures, the town government immediately posted a notice to announce the signature validation. After finding 584 valid signatures, which was more than legally required number, the town government recognized that the motion to recall was in effect and therefore initiated the process. According to the "Laws for Organizing Village Committees in the People's Republic of China", "Methods for Electing Village Committee Members in Guangdong Province," "(Trial) Methods for Implementing the Election of Village Committees in Guangdong Province" and other related regulations, the District Civil Affairs Bureau directed the town and village to earnestly set the schedule in the "Operational Guide to Recall the Village Committee Director." Thus, the election was held according to the law to elect a recall committee.

Q4. Overseas media reported that there were serious bloodsheds on August 16 and September 12. Please tell us what happened then. Did the police employ violence during law enforcement?

A: From the night of August 3, about 100 villagers occupied the village committee office by force under the name of "protecting the accounting ledgers." This caused village committee's work to come to a standstill. The government of Yuwotou organized relevant departments to tell the people about the relevant laws. Afterwards, the Panyu District public security bureau issued a notice on August 13, asking the villagers to follow the law and not occupying the village committee office. On August 16, the Panyu public security bureau detained six individuals for organizing crowds to prevent the police from carrying out their duties. On August 12, Panyu District public security and other law enforcement personnel evicted the individuals who had been occupying the village office building for more than one month. These law enforcement people were lightly armed. When faced with the excessive behavior from some villagers, they did not fight back when hit and they did not curse back when scolded. Four police officers suffered slight injuries. During these two law enforcement activities, the relevant departments followed the law and there were no "violent and bloody activities" as reported in the overseas media.

Q5. Of the 584 people who motioned for the recall originally, 396 withdrew their motion later on. Did the relevant departments apply pressure on the villagers?

A: On September 5, Feng Weinan and others submitted an original copy of a motion to recall Taishi Village committee director Chen Jinsheng with the signature of 892 villagers. The town government issued an immediate notice to validate those signatures. After validation, 584 signatures were deemed to be valid and that is more than the legally required number. This started the legal process for the recall of the village committee director. From September 12 to 16, the Panyu District government sent out a work team to audit the finances of the village and conducted special studies of the "25 problems" brought up by the villagers. At the same time, the Panyu district Civil Affairs Bureau directed the village to follow the law to form a recall committee with seven villagers.

The Panyu District announced the audit and investigation results to the Taishi Village party members, brigade leaders and village representatives on September 20 and to more than 500 households on September 26. The results of the audit and investigation showed that most of the "problems" did not exist. The basic conclusion was that they did not discover any "situations of individuals damaging collective interests for personal profits." Faced with the facts, most villagers realized that the original reasons for the recall no longer existed and therefore told the village recall committee that they wished to withdraw the motion. Between September 26 and 28, the village recall committee validated the requests from those villagers who wished to withdraw and confirmed that out of 584 original villagers who signed the recall motion, 396 have requested to withdraw. Thus, the final confirmed number of valid signatures was only 188, which is less than one-fifth of the total number of voters in the village (1,502). Therefore, the recall motion no longer met the legal requirement. Thus, the Taishi village recall committee declared that the motion to recall village committee director Chen Jinsheng was no longer in effect.

As one can see, the above process was legal. The villagers withdraw their motion after they saw the results of the audit and investigation and they did so of their free will. The government departments had insisted all along to respect the will of the people and acted in accordance with the law. No pressure had been applied to the villagers.

Q6: Overseas media have recently reported that several groups of foreign reporters came to Taishi village but were obstructed and assaulted. It was even reported that the Guardian (UK) reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Hubei Province Zhijiang people's congress representative Lu Banglie were beaten to death. Please tell us what was the real happening?

A: Around 8:40pm on September 8, Lu Banglie came with two foreigners into Taishi village in a rented car. They were stopped near the Taishi Secondary School by some villagers. The villagers warned Lu not to stir up trouble there because they won't listen to them anymore. The villagers told them to leave immediately, but they attempted to force their way in and there was some pushing and shoving. At 8:50pm, the Yuwotou police received a report and rushed to the scene.

For safety reasons, the three were taken to the town government building. After interrogation, the two foreigners were identified as the Guardian (UK)'s Shanghai-based correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt and an employee of a Shanghai-based translation company by the name of Tang Guoye. Since they were not able to show any documents of permission to report from the foreign affairs department, the department leader told them it was illegal for them to gather information without the permission of the provincial and city foreign affairs departments. Afterwards, to ensure their safety, the town government drove them back to the White Swan Hotel. These two foreigners were not hurt at all during the incident. Therefore, it was pure rumor to say that Benjamin Joffe-Walt was assaulted.

Since Lu Banglie claimed to have been injured, the Yuwotou police station sent Lu to the town hospital for a full physical examination including CT and other procedures. The doctors believed that Lu was normal except for some light scratches on his hands. As Lu was a representative of the people's congress, the relevant persons called the standing committee of the Zhijiang City people's congress. At 10:41pm, the Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee replied and asked the Panyu District people's congress to bring Lu Banglie back to Zhijiang City. The Panyu District people's congress then arranged for workers to take Lu back to Zhijiang.

At 7:30pm on September 9, Lu Banglie arrived at Zhijiang City in Hubei Province. The Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee immediately arranged for Lu Banglie to be examined at the Bailizhou town hospital. On the morning of October 10, they brought Lu Banglie to the Zhijiang City People's Hospital for further examination while asking the legal medical expert of the Zhijiang City Public Security Bureau to be in attendance. After repeated examinations, except for the legal medical expert identifying the light scratches on his arm (believed to have been caused during the pushing and shoving with the villagers when Lu insisted on entering), Lu was deemed to be normal otherwise. Afterwards, Lu Banglie signed his name on the town and city hospital examination results. Therefore, the "bloodshed" in which Lu Banglie was beaten or killed was fabricated.

Q7: After recall motion failed, has the life of the Taishi villagers gone back to normal? Will the local government take revenge upon the villagers who participated in the recall as claimed by overseas media?

A: After the village election committee announced that recall was not longer in effect, most villagers have accepted the fact calmly because they believed this represents the will of the majority of the villagers. The results of the investigation have come out, the laws are clear, the truth is out and the basis for the recall no longer exists. Therefore, everyone naturally does not want to get involved in the recall anymore. Production and life in the village have returned to normal.

If the villagers want to recall their village committee director, they only need to follow the law. The various levels of government will respect their wills and earnestly protect their legal rights. There is no issue of reprisal later on. At the same time, the law enforcement departments will pursue the small group of people who organized and plotted to rouse the masses to cause trouble and disturb social order for ulterior motives.

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