A court in Guangdong province on Thursday rejected appeals by both the defendant and prosecutors of a lower court’s conviction of a former village leader who led a fight against illegal land grabs.
The Foshan Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on its website that Lin Zuluan, 72, the former committee head of Wukan village in Lufeng city, accepted the court’s ruling on the appeal. It made no changes to the original sentence of 37 months in prison and a fine of 200,000 yuan. Prosecutors had been seeking a heavier sentence.
“The court finds that Lin has committed offences of taking bribes and taking bribes as a non-state official,” the statement read.
It alleged that Lin had confessed to taking bribes as a non-state official in order to receive a lesser sentence.
However, during his appeal trial on October 12, Lin renounced the guilty plea he made in his first trial in September.
Lin was among a group of people popularly elected in Wukan village in 2012 to replace officials implicated in illegal land seizures. He was arrested on June 18 just ahead of a planned rally the next day, which was meant to draw attention from a higher level of government to alleged illegal land sales in the village.
In a video clip later released by authorities, Lin confessed to having pocketed 80,000 yuan from 420,000 yuan in funding for a local school. However, his wife and family members said the confession was false, and that Lin only made it because police had also detained his grandson.
At least two lawyers hired to represent Lin were replaced against his family’s will by the authorities.
Lin was last month convicted of taking the funds from the school project as well as a 150,000 yuan kickback from another project, of which Lin said he had no knowledge, according to mainland media reports.
Massive protests were held almost daily in Wukan after Lin’s arrest, until a crackdown by riot police last month led to scores of injuries and unconfirmed reports of one death.
Wukan villagers first began protesting in September 2011, over the then village committee chief selling land without their consent. Those protests eventually forced the provincial government to intervene and allow the village to pick new leaders in an open election.
Lin was elected in March 2012, winning 90 per cent of the 6,899 ballots cast.