A resident in the “democracy village” of Wukan has been transferred to prison before he had a chance to appeal, according to his son in the US.
Zhuang Songkun, one of nine villagers who were arrested for their role in mass protests last year, was transferred to a Guangdong prison on January 15 or 16, his son Zhuang Liehong told US-backed Radio Free Asia on Monday.
“Until now they haven’t sent any documents to notify us, the family members. The other eight villagers were probably also transferred to prison,” he said. Zhuang Liehong, a leader in 2011 protests over land grabs that drew attention to the village in international media, sought asylum in the US in 2014, fearing retaliation from authorities.
After the protests in 2011, provincial authorities allowed the village to elect its own leaders in a rare move. The protests in the Guangdong fishing village last year took place after elected leader Lin Zuluan was jailed for corruption. Residents took to the streets for weeks demanding his release before police moved in to arrest those involved and put the village in lockdown.
Zhuang Songkun was sentenced to three years imprisonment on December 26, in a trial with the other villagers. He was accused of riding his motorcycle along with others to intercept passing vehicles, causing disruption to traffic, according to an indictment notice from the court.
All nine villagers said they would appeal the sentences in court, according to an article Zhuang Liehong wrote for China Change. However, the other villagers’ families were forced to back down after being intimidated by police.
After Zhuang publicly posted on his Facebook account that he was hiring lawyers for the nine villagers, a manager at the law firm that promised to help Zhuang’s family appeal was questioned by police and advised not to get involved in the sensitive matter of Wukan, Zhuang told HKFP.
Zhuang said in the article that the son of another villager who was sentenced had planned to hire a lawyer to appeal. But he was harassed by police and government employees, who visited his home and forced him to sign an agreement stating that he would not hire a lawyer.
“A dozen public security agents came to his house and forced him to sign his name to a document they provided, under the watch of three SWAT officers in his living room, who had their submachine guns pointed at his chest and head,” Zhuang wrote.
His family has also been constantly harassed by police, who visited their home in China in recent days, Zhuang said, adding that 13 more villagers were still awaiting trial.
On Sunday, the Director of the Guangdong Public Security Department told Hong Kong reporters that they respected citizens’ right to appeal, and denied that residents were threatened by police.