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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Chinese protest lawyer 'arrested'
Chinese villagers face off riot police at their village in Taishi, southern China's Guangdong province 12 September 2005.
Riot police were called to suppress protests in Taishi last month
China has arrested a lawyer who helped farmers in southern Guangdong province try to remove their village chief, according to US and Hong Kong media.

Guo Feixiong is said to be under formal arrest having been detained last month over the dispute, in Taishi village.

Villagers had accused the village chief of embezzling public funds in the course of a land deal.

Mr Guo is on hunger strike and has been given medical treatment in detention, US-funded Radio Free Asia said.

Police declined to comment on the report of Mr Guo's arrest.

"We have no knowledge of this matter," an official in the Public Security Bureau in the district of Panyu told Reuters news agency.

The stand-off in Taishi began in July. According to RFA, the land deal at its centre was worth 100m yuan ($12m) and involved more than 2,000 mu (133 hectares) of village land.

Villagers suspected the village chief of embezzling public funds during the land sale.

On 29 July, villagers submitted a petition to remove the village chief, but the petition was rejected and several villagers arrested, Mr Guo told the BBC website last month.

The protests have since fizzled out. An election for a new village chief which had been scheduled for Friday has been cancelled.

Common theme

It is the latest in a series of such disputes in rural China.

Protests by villagers over issues such as land seizures, corruption and pollution are becoming more common.

A few are successful. For example, in July, farmers in the eastern province of Zhejiang forced a pharmaceutical factory to close after they stormed it, complaining that it had polluted a local river.

But many such protests do not succeed. Mr Guo told the BBC last month that he believed the one in Taishi had failed because the amount of money the village chief is alleged to have embezzled was so high that other local officials may also have been involved.

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