Driver who killed Chinese protester is released early

‘GOOD BEHAVIOR’::Fei Liangyu was suspected by local residents of having killed a land campaigner deliberately, in a case dealt with in an Ai Weiwei film

AFP, BEIJING

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 - Page 6

A truck driver jailed for crushing a Chinese village warden to death in a case that inspired a film by dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) has been released early, media said yesterday.

The death of Qian Yunhui (錢雲會), 53, raised suspicions that he had been murdered for campaigning over land seizures in eastern Zhejiang Province and the Global Times said that local residents had “suspected foul play.”

Fei Liangyu (費良玉) was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in February 2011.

However, his sentence was reduced because of “good behavior” and he was released on June 24, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said.

It did not give further details or explain the delay in the news coming to light.

Ai, an internationally renowned avant-garde artist, made a 102-minute film about the incident earlier this year, using footage of the site of the death and interviews with villagers and others about the case.

“Most of the evidence is in the government’s hands so you can never really have the full picture of the truth in China in most cases,” Ai told reporters by telephone yesterday.

Qian, the warden of Zhaiqiao Village, had been detained three times since 2005 for repeatedly demanding compensation for farmers after nearly 150 hectares of land was seized for a power station, earlier reports said.

Land requisitions by the authorities, often in collusion with real-estate developers, remain one of China’s most controversial issues, with officials routinely accused of enriching themselves through arbitrary land grabs.

The party has expressed mounting concern over such actions, as well as corruption and environmental degradation, with thousands of public protests each year. Ai’s outspoken criticism of China’s leaders and involvement in sensitive social campaigns have made him a thorn in the government’s side.