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Man Imprisoned in China for Publicizing Land Appropriation

April 20, 2009
By Shi-ren Hou


Wu Bao-quan imprisoned for publicizing land appropriation.



China's People's Daily website has a headline news story about the sentencing of man in Inner Mongolia to two years imprisonment  for using the internet to publicize illegal land appropriations by the local government of Ordos prefecture.

According to the news story, originally published by the "Southern Metropolis Daily" - one of China's most popular current affairs and news publications, Wu Bao-quan, a 39 year-old male from Inner Mongolia, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for the crime of slander, after having publicized the illegal appropriation of land belonging to a friend of his by the government. In 2008, Wu initially received a one year sentence for this offence, yet after he protested this decision, the Ordos Prefecture Intermediate Court extended the sentence to a period of two years.

Wu Bao-quan originally hails from Wuhan Prefecture in Inner Mongolia, yet has since moved to Qingdao in Shandong province. Over a decade ago, while working in the garments industry, he made the acquaintance of  Kang Shu-lin from Ordos Prefecture . The two have maintained regular contact ever since, in spite of the fact they now reside in different parts of the country.

On 6 September 2007, Wu Bao-quan was informed by Kang Shu-lin during a phone conversation that land belonging to his family had been forcibly appropriated by local government, and that Kang Shu-lin had no means of protesting these actions.

Wu Bao-quan suggested that he place this information on the internet, in order to draw the attention of the relevant authorities. Because Kang Shu-lin lacked internet access, however, Wu proposed that he place this information on internet forums on his friend's behalf.

The following day, a post entitled "Leaders: Why do you need to harm your rural brothers and sisters?" The posting stated that the in Habagexi Village and neighbouring Zhaizige Village in Ordos prefecture, over 50,000 mu (0.0667 hectares) had been forcibly purchased by the government for the extremely low price of 250 RMB per mu, yet had later been auctioned for prices of up to 820,000 RMB per mu. Although local residents had lodged numerous complaints and appeals over the years, none had obtained any effect.

 Several days later, on 16 September, three police officers from Ordos Prefecture apprehended Wu in Qingdao, and took him back to Ordos Prefecture. In Ordos Prefecture, Wu Bao-quan was interrogated for several nights in succession, and informed that he would be incarcerated for a period 10 days for the crime of public slander of others over the internet. The following day, Kang Shu-lin was also arrested, and given the same penalty.

Following his release, Wu Bao-quan did not leave Ordos Prefecture to return to Qingdao, but instead visited the village where the land appropriations are alleged to have occurred, in order to obtain more accurate information about their circumstances. According to the news story, the residents of Habagexi village and Zhaizida village "spent the whole day pouring out their grievances towards him". Wu discovered that the information he had posted on the internet, far from being exaggerated or distorted, failed to convey the severity of their villager's complaints, and he resolved to provide them with further assistance.

From October to November 2007, Wu Bao-quan, under an assumed, posted an essay entitled :"The True Story of the Excesses of Ordos Prefecture - Secrets That No-one Dares to Publicize" on lawyers forums, literature blogs, and journalists forums. In the essay, he brought to light several problems with regard to recent development plans by the Ordos Prefecture Government, asserting that the 48,000 mu of land which had been appropriated as part of the development plans for the Kangbashi New District had not received approval from China's State Council, and the legality of this action was still in dispute.

The relevant land appropriation documents stipulate that when land is appropriated by the government, irrigated land will be compensated at a rate of 25,000 RMB per mu, dry land will be compensated at a rate of 20,000 RMB per mu, and uncultivated land will be compensated at a rate of 10,000 RMB per mu. Yet the residents of Habagexi village and Zhaizida village had been given compensation amounts far below these levels - 5757 RMB per mu of irrigated land, 800 RMB per mu of dry land, and 250 RMB per mu of uncultivated land. Although the government initially sought to placate local residents by construction water reservoirs and large sheds, these facilities were not provided to the residents free of charge, but were sold to third parties who then levied fees for their usage.

After posting these allegations on the internet, Wu Bao-quan's activist ambitions were undiminished, and he visited Ordos prefecture on several more occasions to gather further evidence and information, as well as provide encouragement to local residents in seeking redress for their grievances. He contacted as many lawyers as he could, hoping to obtain greater legal assistance. Local residents entrusted him with over 20000 RMB of funds they had raised for the hiring of a law firm.

On 27 April 2008, Wu Bao-quan was apprehended while on a business trip in Shenyang, on the grounds that he had fabricated facts in his internet postings, and slandered other citizens and the government. On 17 October of the same year, a local court in Ordos prefecture sentenced him to one year in prison for "fabrication of facts and slander", and "creating a malignant influence on the people of the area and the area itself, and threatening local development." The news story notes that the sentencing document from the trial did not contain any new evidence against Wu Bao-quan.

Wu Bao-quan appealed the sentence, and on 4 January, the Ordos Prefecture Intermediate Court announced that it would hold a retrial.  On 19 February, the case was tried in the Dongsheng District Court of Ordos Prefecture. Over 40 villagers whose land had been forcibly appropriated attended the trial, vigorously demanding the immediate release of Wu Bao-quan. Although his hopes for release were buoyed by this show of support, less than a month later on 10 March, Wu's sentence was in fact extended from one to two years. The sentencing document for the re-trial was again absent of any further evidence against him.

The news story points out grave inconsistence in the conclusions of the trials, with the first sentence issued by the Ordos Intermediate Court stating that the "facts are unclear", while the sentence of the retrial deciding to "uphold the original decision", which is an indirect affirmation that the "facts are clear."

The news story concludes by highlighting the reticence of local judicial officials when confronted by questions from journalists about the case, with Liu Yin-fu, the deputy presiding judge stating that he has "no comment" on these inconsistencies, and repeatedly affirming that the decision was made by the jury, and that if Wu objects it, he can pursue the proper legal channels.

"When faced with inquiries by several journalists, (Liu) maintained silence most of the time."




From Yeke-juu League to Ordos Municipality: settler colonialism and alter/native urbanization in Inner Mongolia

Close to Eden (Urga): France, Soviet Union, directed by Nikita Mikhilkov

Beyond Great WallsBeyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China

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