Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that rights defenders Zhang Cunqiong (张春琼) and Gao Shifu (高世福), both of Baihutou Village in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, were released from the Beihai No. 1 Detention Center. Zhang was released on June 6, and Gao on May 25, 2012, both having served two-year sentences.
They are two of the three Baihutou villagers convicted of “illegal business activity” and sentenced to jail after opposing land appropriation by the Beihai municipal government. The third individual is Xu Kun (许坤), the elected chief of the village, who is serving a four-year term. In addition to jail time, Zhang and Gao were each fined 150,000 yuan (~$23,600), and Xu was fined 200,000 yuan (~$31,400).
Xu Kun’s sister, Xu Yan (许燕), said that her brother has taken on extra labor in prison in the hope of getting a sentence reduction and has accumulated enough points to be released in October 2013, several months ahead of his scheduled release date of May 2014. But she is not sure Xu’s early release will happen because he has refused to admit guilt. ”His hair has turned completely white,” she added.
In 2006, the Beihai government appropriated the village land for tourism development. Xu, Gao, Zhang, and other villagers fought the appropriation and the subsequent demolition for many years. In 2009-2010, villagers had several violent clashes with the police, and the case received media attention both domestically and abroad.
On May 8, 2010, the authorities sent hundreds of police and auxiliary police officers to surround Xu Kun’s four-story house. He resisted, intent on fighting to the end, and the police retreated the following day. Xu fled his home but was apprehended on May 14. On October 8, local authorities forcibly demolished some of the villagers’ houses, including Xu Kun’s. Again, the demolition met with fierce resistance from the villagers, and had to be suspended. To date, more than 30 houses remain. But the local authorities have built a wall around the village, so that no visitor can see the houses.
For more information on the Baihutou Village case, see: