Three residents of Baihutou Village, in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, were tried today for “illegal business activities,” in a case that is widely seen by Baihutou villagers as retribution for resistance against government requisition of village land. The defendants—Baihutou Village chief Xu Kun (许坤) and two village representatives, Zhang Chunqiong (张春琼) and Gao Shifu (高世福)—are accused of illegally operating a parking lot on land that no longer belongs to the village. The trial ended without a verdict.
The defendants have been involved in a multi-year battle with the local government over its expropriation of land in 2006 for tourism development. Some villagers had accepted compensation, but others have maintained that the compensation was inadequate and continue to fight to hold on to the land and their homes. Following several violent confrontations between villagers and local police in 2009 and 2010, the case of Baihutou Village has been attracting increasing media attention.
All three defendants maintain that the parking lot is situated in an area that was originally designated as land to be used collectively by Baihutou villagers. They also maintained that they have never been involved in the day-to-day operation of the parking lot.
Lawyer Zheng Jianwei (郑建伟), who represents Xu Kun, said that “there is no legal basis for the prosecution” and that “the whole trial is a fantasy.” Zheng said that Xu’s only involvement in the parking lot was to convene a meeting of village representatives in March 2009. During the meeting, they decided to take back the parking lot that was then being run by a company that was not authorized to operate the lot, only to maintain the land.
Mao Xiaopeng (马小鹏), who represents Zhang, said that Zhang’s involvement was limited to possessing the passcode for the joint bank account that held the money villagers put up to cover any damages to the vehicles in the lot.
A family member of Gao Shifu, who took notes at the March 2009 meeting, said that Gao was innocent, and that the “charge against the three was barbaric.” Gao’s brother and father have also been caught up in the land dispute: they were arrested in October 2009 when more than 100 Baihutou villagers resisted the demolition of the village committee business building. They were sentenced in June 2010 to two years’ imprisonment for “obstructing official business.” A relative was beaten by the police during that incident and later died in the hospital.
Xu Kun has led the fight against the requisition of Baihutou village land since 2007, and was elected village chief in 2008. In 2009, he was expelled from the Communist Party and had the official village seal forcibly taken from him. He was taken into custody in May 14, 2010, following an episode earlier that month when several hundred policemen were reported to have blocked the seven or eight entrances to the village and surrounded Xu’s home. Xu’s lawyer said that after he was detained, Xu was deprived of the right to communicate with the outside, including his family, was not allowed to read books or newspapers, and was made to work 14 hours a day.
For more information regarding Xu Kun and the Baihutou Village Case, see: