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Lengthy Prison Terms and Heavy Fines for Baihutou Village Chief and Land Rights Activists

April 29, 2011

On the morning of April 29, 2011, the Yinhai District People’s Court in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuangzu Autonomous Region, sentenced Xu Kun (许坤), the Baihutou Village chief, to four years in prison on the charge of “illegal business activity” and fined him 200,000 yuan (approximately US$30,800). The court also sentenced villagers Gao Shifu (高世福) and Zhang Chunqiong (张春琼), to two years in prison and fined them 150,000 yuan (approximately $23,100) each on the same charge. The defendants were tried on February 28, 2011.

Xu, Gao, and Zhang were active in resisting the local government’s requisition of village land. Villagers believe that their prosecution is an act of revenge by the local authorities in Baihutou Village.

Xu’s wife Feng Guangmei (冯广梅) said the three men, who were handcuffed during the entire 20 minutes of the court proceeding, called out together after they heard the verdict: “I do not agree with the verdict; I demand an appeal.” She said more than 30 trial attendees, including herself, Gao’s sister and mother, Zhang’s husband, and other villagers, all cried out: “We support the appeal.” Many wept. More than 70 Baihutou villagers were refused entry to the courtroom.

Feng also said, “Xu Kun is completely innocent. It’s incomprehensible that he ended up in the dock, got four years, and is fined 200,000 yuan. All this is just too much. They [the local government] don’t treat us ordinary people as humans. There is no law for us poor common folk to speak of.”

Gao Jianbo (高剑波), a village representative from Baihutou Village, said “The crimes that the government accuses Xu Kun, Gao Shifu, and Zhang Chunqiong of are completely fabricated. Of course we don’t accept it.”

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.

On May 8, 2010, several hundred policemen came to Baihutou Village and Xu barricaded himself in his home. The police retreated in the early morning of May 9, and Xu fled the village. He was picked up by police on May 14.

For more information regarding Xu Kun and the Baihutou Village Case, see: