On June 11, the Yinhai People's Court of Beihai, in southern Guangxi Province, found three inhabitants of the Baihutou Village guilty of "obstructing official business," and sentenced two of them, Gao Zhenzhang and Gao Shihui, father and son, to two years' imprisonment each. The third defendant, Cai Jianyue, received one-and-a-half years.
The three were detained on October 30, 2009, during a confrontation between more than 100 police officers and several hundred Baihutou villagers who resisted the forced demolition of their village committee building. As a result of that incident, one of the villagers beaten by the police, a relative of the Gao family, later died in the hospital. On May 26, 2010, Gao Zhenzhang's other son, Gao Shifu, was criminally detained on suspicion of "illegally operating a business." The family has received no information on his status.
Dong Qianyong, the lawyer for Gao Shihui, said that Gao and his father are not guilty. Dong said that the father, Gao Zhenzhang, only tried to stop the demolition and did not use force. He was pulled away by his son, Gao Shifu, who was in turn pulled away by his brother, Gao Shihui, so that the men could avoid being beaten by the police.
Gao Zhenzhang's daughter said that her 71-year-old mother collapsed when she heard the guilty verdict and sentences of her husband and son.
The conviction and sentencing mark a new episode in a 4-year dispute between the inhabitants of Baihutou Village and the Beihai municipal government over what the villagers allege to be the authorities' unlawful expropriation of village land for tourism development – land on which they had depended for their livelihood. The villagers accuse a former village chief, Feng Kun, of handing over 125.5 acres of village land to the Beihai municipal government without consultation with the inhabitants.
On May 14, 2010, Feng Kun's successor, current village chief Xu Kun, who led the fight against the land requisition and forced demolition, was detained and charged with "illegally operating a business." Xu has been in police custody since. The authorities have not allowed him to meet with his lawyer Zheng Jianwei, claiming that his case involves state secrets.
For the decision, see: http://gb.hrichina.org/public/
For more information on the Baihutou Village land requisition, see:
- Guangxi Authorities Target Village Chief Active in Land Rights, May 19, 2010, http://www.hrichina.org/