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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 16:08 GMT
China releases village activist
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 earlier this year
A Chinese activist who was detained for more than three months after helping a village protest has been released without charges.

Guo Feixiong was held in September after he assisted farmers in Taishi village in the southern province of Guangdong to try to remove their chief.

They accused the leader of embezzling public funds during a land deal.

Observers say the release is an unusual official concession to protesters. It comes amid a series of such disputes.

Demonstrations against corruption, pollution and land seizures have become increasingly common in rural China.

'Absurd'

Local officials were not available to comment to Reuters news agency on Mr Guo's release.

The activist told Reuters he was set free after being held in police detention from mid-September, and holding a month-long hunger-strike.

Mr Guo said that police had charged him with "disturbing social order", but prosecutors told him he would not be indicted.

However, they accused him of being a "ring-leader" of anti-government protests in Taishi, the activist said.

"They said I'd personally commanded villagers on how to depose the village leaders and organised them to surround the village committee offices," he said.

Mr Guo described the charges as "absurd", and pledged to continue to press for political change, especially in villages like Taishi.

Earlier this year villagers had accused the chief over a deal involving the sale of a large tract of village land, in one of China's most prominent rural demonstrations.

The stand-off between locals and security forces had lasted several weeks, before fizzling out.

A few such protests are successful. 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 do not succeed. Mr Guo told the BBC in September 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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