Chinese Lawyer Receives Death Threats for Defending Land Grab Victims
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.
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.
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.
days later, an online message, posted with Shu’s consent, accused the Guan
County Party secretary of illegally expropriating farmland.
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.
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,”
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.
Aril 7, Shu’s law firm website was shut down and his e-mail was inundated with
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
On April 25, the Bureau of Justice postponed the annual
review of Shu’s law firm and withheld his lawyer license.
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
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
hislaw firm, although he is losing money, while waiting for a response from the
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.
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 the Ministry of Land and Resources.
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