Sat, Dec 06, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Chinese officials held over death of ex-party leader

AFP , BEIJING

China has detained two government officials after an old man died following a severe beating given as payback for traveling to Beijing to air grievances about alleged corruption in his home village, a newspaper said.

Guo Chengzhi (郭成志), 70, a former Communist Party secretary of Hedong village in northern Hebei Province, died in hospital last month after being severely beaten by a number of people, the China Youth Daily said in a report carried by the Beijing News.

A few weeks earlier, Guo had traveled to Beijing with three people to accuse a Hedong official of “economic crimes” involving the illegal seizure of land and compensation money totaling more than 100 million yuan (US$14.5 million), the paper said.

Property disputes involving government seizures of land and compensation are rife across China, where local authorities permit little oversight.

Guo and his companions were woken up in their hotel in the middle of the night and beaten by three men as village officials looked on, the paper said, quoting the victims.

The four were then packed into two vans, beaten and tortured for a few hours and dumped by the side of a highway connecting Beijing with Hebei capital Shijiazhuang, the paper said.

“The car did not even stop. I was thrown directly from it,” the paper quoted Chang Xianglan (常香藍), a female victim, as saying.

Guo was taken to hospital with severe injuries but died a few weeks later.

Police had detained four men involved in the beating, while the two officials had been placed under shuanggui (雙規) — Communist Party-speak for detention and interrogation in a secret location.

Meanwhile, police in northern China have detained three school officials after 11 schoolgirls died of carbon monoxide poisoning from using a charcoal heater in their dormitory, state media said.

A dozen fourth-grade girls were found dead on Tuesday morning at the Duiziliang Middle School in Yulin city, Shaanxi Province. Eleven died and the sole survivor, an 11-year-old, remained in a coma, Xinhua news agency said.

Police took into custody the school principal, deputy principal and a teacher in charge of class business, Xinhua said late on Thursday. It did not say whether the three were formally under arrest or what charges they might face.

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