August 19, 2005


Property Rights Advocate Arrested in China: Detainee, Deceived Into Custody, Led Suit Challenging State Seizures of Oil Wells (Philip P. Pan, August 19, 2005,
Washington Post)

Police in China's northern Shaanxi province have arrested one of the nation's leading advocates of private property rights after officials posed as journalists and forged an e-mail from a prominent Hong Kong reporter to lure him out of hiding, friends and relatives said.

The arrest is a major setback for the plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit against the government that analysts said has emerged as an important test of President Hu Jintao's willingness to promote rule of law and private property rights. The governing Communist Party has endorsed those principles as part of its drive to build a market economy.

A police official in Yulin, a city in Shaanxi, confirmed the arrest of Feng Bingxian, 60, a businessman who has led investors throughout the country in a civil suit that accuses the Shaanxi government of illegally seizing thousands of oil wells from them worth as much as $850 million. But the police official declined to discuss the methods used to apprehend Feng or the charges against him.

The Shaanxi case is one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever brought against the Chinese government. It involves some 60,000 investors who dug and developed oil wells in a 400-square-mile area around Yanan, the former revolutionary base of Mao Zedong, beginning in the mid-1990s. Local authorities allegedly approved the oil exploration, then confiscated the wells in 2003 after they began showing steady profits.

Feng's detention is the latest sign that Shaanxi officials have decided to maintain state control of the oil and quash the lawsuit. In May, police stunned the Chinese bar by arresting Zhu Jiuhu, a prominent Beijing attorney representing the investors, and charging him with disturbing social order through illegal assembly, apparently referring to meetings he held with his clients.

With Feng's arrest, police have also detained 13 of the 15 businessmen serving as lead plaintiffs in the case. The local authorities had made a priority of capturing Feng, a former party official from Inner Mongolia province who often traveled to Beijing to lobby for help and acted as an unofficial spokesman for the investors.

interesting to compare the hysterical reaction to Vlad Putin cracking down on the genuinely criminal oligarchs versus the quiescence when the Chinese crack down on innocent dissidents. It's as if the West's political/business elites have so brainwashed themselves into believing that China is going to be a liberal success story that they can't process any contradictory signs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2005 11:04 AM

Totalitarianism is to be expected from the ChiComs.

There was hope in Russia that the passing of communism meant a genuine return to the pre-Revolutionary path it was on.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at August 19, 2005 12:58 PM


Posted by: oj at August 19, 2005 1:01 PM

Hu Hu
Hu Hu

(sorry, it's Friday . . . couldn't resist.)

Posted by: John Resnick at August 19, 2005 1:04 PM

I did it too John. US businesses have a lot more invested in China than in Russia. Of course we're more inclined to look the other way.

Posted by: Jeff at August 19, 2005 1:28 PM

Feng was probably a communist official who bribed some of his fellow communist officials in the local province to grant him rights to explore and develop oil. He got caught. End of story.

If either China or Russia allowed ownership of mineral rights by private citizens, both would benefit from the resultant oil boom.

Posted by: h-man at August 19, 2005 1:29 PM