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Jail for man who 'defamed' local government

WHILE one man received compensation and a public apology from the Henan Province government when he was wrongly accused of defaming the local government, another man is serving a prison sentence in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for publishing similar online allegations about government misuse of land.

Wang Shuai, 24, received a compensation payment of 783.93 yuan (US$114.711) from the government of his hometown in Henan Province's Lingbao City and a defamation suit against him has been withdrawn.

But Wu Baoquan, 39, is not that lucky.

After serving a year in jail he still faces another year behind bars, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

Wu, who ran a company in Qingdao City, a costal city in Shandong Province, published an online story on September 7, 2007 after learning from his friend Kang Shulin that the government of Kang's hometown, Erdos City's suburb Habagexi Village and Zhaizita Village, had taken over farm land for development.

In the online story, Wang said the government had bought about 50,000 mu (33,350,000 square meters) of land from local farmers for 250 yuan per mu. It then auctioned the land for up to 820,000 yuan per mu.

The government did not honor its promise of offering farm land and other facilities to the farmers in compensation.

After petitioning the local government in vain, hundreds of angry villagers petitioned the Erdos City government on August 6, 2007.

But instead of listening to their complaints, the government dispatched police to disperse the crowd. Police detained more than 20 petitioners and several elderly women were injured and hospitalized in the fracas, Wu wrote.

On September 16, police from Erdos seized Wu in Qingdao and detained him for 10 days for defaming the local government.

On the following day his friend, Kang, was also detained for 10 days.

After being released, Wu visited the villages to carry out his research first hand. He published another three reports on Websites from October to November 2007.

The reports, however, did not attract a great deal of attention - only drawing 1,900 hits up to April 17, 2008, the Southern Metropolis Daily report said.

But they did attract the local police.

On April 27, Wu was arrested again when he was on business in Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning Province.

He was sentenced to one year in jail for defaming the Erdos city government - a crime which does not exist in Chinese law, according to legal experts - on October 17, 2008.

Wu appealed but was then sentenced to two years in jail on March 10, 2008.

Legal experts say the charge and verdict were not in accordance with Chinese law.

"The crime of 'defaming the government,' is a creation by a local court," said He Bing, professor with China University of Political Science and Law.

According to Chinese law defamation can only involve people not governments, he explained.

Wu was divorced by his wife after he became involved in the case. He wrote many letters to his daughter from jail but not all were delivered.

He told the Southern Metropolis Daily he did not regret his reports and was determined to help the farmers.

He had encouraged the villagers to continue the fight when they visited him.

Villagers are deeply moved by Wu, who they said "has no land, no family and just one friend in the area that is thousands of miles away from his home."


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