A village chief in Jieyang, South China's Guangdong Province has been arrested, alongside another nine suspects, after a recent land deal dispute resulted in chaos and some injuries, the local government revealed over the weekend.
Li Baoyu, the head of the Shangpu village committee, was detained due to his involvement in physical confrontations with local villagers, according to a statement released by Jiexi county government's publicity department on Saturday, adding that Li's nomination as the director of the village committee had also been also revoked.
Meanwhile, both the head of the Mianhu township and the local Party chief have also been deprived of their posts for "incompetent handling" of the mass incident. Another 21 suspects are still at large, said the statement, which added that the land contract signed on January 17 had now been nullified.
On February 12 and 14, locals voiced their dissatisfaction over the land deal, under which the largest stretch of farmland in the village would be contracted to an investment company by the village committee. On February 22, Li hired thugs from other villages to attack Shangpu villagers, resulting in four injuries.
During the attack, 29 cars were destroyed and another two were burnt, said the statement.
A local villager, who only gave his surname as Li, told the Global Times Sunday that the dismissal of local officials is "meaningless," and only a move by the county government to patch up the incident quickly.
Li said that villagers want Li Baoyu and the thugs he hired to be severely punished, adding that another attack took place on Saturday night.
The government move has been applauded by some netizens after being made public, but many also questioned corruption in grass-root elections.
Dang Guoying, a researcher with the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Sunday that in order to stamp out corruption in rural areas and avoid unrest caused by land disputes, land reform has to be carried out.
He noted that the current system of collective ownership of land in rural areas should be changed and any property held in the public interest should not be used by anyone for personal benefit.
"The purpose of the land must be clearly specified and no change of purpose should be allowed," said Dang.
According to the Jiexi government, alleged gang leader Wu Guicun has been listed as "most wanted" by the public security ministry, and an investigation of the village's corruption problem will soon be underway.
It added that the injured villagers would receive free medical treatment.
Hu Qingyun contributed to this story