Qianjiang City, Hubei Province
Wednesday October 12, 2005
Copyright – The Guardian
Lu Banglie, the civil rights activist who was savagely beaten at the weekend,said yesterday he would not give up his campaign for more democracy in China despite the attack on him.
Mr Lu accused the mayor of Taishi and authorities in the local Pan Yu township of running a campaign of violence and intimidation. “I have seen the ugly side of the government,” he told the Guardian at the home of a friend in his home province of Hubei. “I think I will do more to promote democracy. But now I need time to recuperate.”
Mr Lu was beaten when he took the Guardian’s Shanghai correspondent to Taishi, the focus of a campaign by locals and civil rights activists to unseat the village chief, who they have accused of corruption. The previous day a gang of hired thugs had assaulted two journalists, from the South China Morning Post and Radio France International. Locals were being intimidated by the thugs; many
have been detained or have fled in fear.
Mr Lu said yesterday that he knew it was dangerous, and that he was used to the violence and intimidation faced by grassroots democracy campaigners. He has been the victim of several beatings since becoming politically active three years ago.
On four occasions he had helped journalists to enter the village and see what was happening. But, he said, he felt the risks on Saturday were greater than usual.
The taxi containing Mr Lu, the Guardian’s Benjamin Joffe-Walt, his interpreter and a driver, had been trailed around the outskirts of the village.
“Benjamin insisted that he wanted to go so he could see the real situation in the village. He told me to stay behind. But I insisted I would go with him. I felt that if a foreigner was ready to help the village, then I as a Chinese should do the same.”
Their car was stopped by a group of men on the outskirts of the village.
“Five or six men punched me in the head and kicked me. I lost consciousness, was brought round, and then passed out again. When I woke up I was in a car with five township deputies from Pan Yu.”
Mr Lu told Reuters that he repeatedly vomited while being driven the 900 miles to his home city and that his eyes had been swollen and his vision blurred. However his injuries were not as extensive as first reported. Although he was in pain from his neck, it was not broken and his eye did not come out of its socket.
The main source of suffering, he said, was the throbbing in his head. A CT scan at a local hospital yesterday indicated there was no damage to the brain.
A second witness to the attack, whom the Guardian cannot name to protect his safety, last night said that he believed Mr Lu had been left for dead. “A group of men attacked Lu with fists and legs. We thought he was dead,” the witness said. “An ambulance came [and] left without him. We were fearful for our lives; we thought they might kill us.”
Mr Lu told the Guardian there was nothing anyone could have done to help him.
After the beating ended, Joffe-Walt and the second witness were forced into a pick-up truck and driven to Yuwutou township, where they were interrogated by local officials for more than two hours.
Mr Lu said yesterday that he did not regret going into the village that night. “Actually before I went to Taishi, I anticipated this kind of outcome. I am this kind of person. I know there are tigers in the mountain, but I still go to the mountain.”
In the first statement on the incident by the central government, a foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said Mr Lu was “quite safe”. He did not say whether a formal investigation was under way.
Jonathan Watts –
Qianjiang City, Hubei Province