‘Rebel’ China village chief falls for corruption

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BEIJING: The elected chief of a village that became a symbol of resistance against corruption has been arrested for allegedly accepting bribes, Chinese authorities said in a statement posted online Saturday.

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Lin Zulian was voted head of the Wukan village committee in southern Guangdong province in 2012, after protests over land grabs led to the ousting of local leaders.

But the regional office for public security said Saturday he had “used his power to elicit bribes” in a social media post.

Aware that the arrest could spark further protests, the office called for villagers to “cooperate with judicial authorities and maintain hard-won social stability”.

“Do not let a law-breaking minority encourage you to commit radical acts,” it warned.

Dozens of police cars arrived on Friday night to arrest Lin, China’s respected Caixin magazine quoted villagers as saying.

Residents of the 13,000-strong fishing village began protesting in 2011 in what was then seen as just another bout of social unrest in China, where land grabs have become a major source of discontent.

But when Xue Jinbo—one of the protest leaders—died in police custody, villagers took their protest a step further, barricading roads leading into Wukan and facing off with security forces for more than a week.

Then, unexpectedly, Communist Party authorities backed down and promised rare concessions, including pledges to investigate the land dispute and allow village polls to be held in an open manner—a first in Wukan.

Lin—who also led the protests and was provisionally appointed committee head after the incumbent was thrown out—was one of the successful contenders.

Protest leaders could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Graft is endemic in China’s authoritarian system, and President Xi Jinping has acknowledged it as a threat to the ruling party’s survival.

But critics say an ongoing anti-corruption campaign has been used for political infighting.

AFP

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