An Activist's Tale

Lu Banglie was once a hero in Beijing. A 34-year-old farmer from the rice-basket province of Hubei, he was praised last year by the Communist Party-owned China Youth Daily for leading a movement to impeach a village chief who residents say was corrupt. The paper told Lu's tale: launching a five-day hunger strike, getting roughed up by thugs and investigating political conditions in other villages across China. When his campaign finally forced his village chief to resign in 2003, the paper said, Lu emerged as "the front runner of peasant grassroots democracy."

That was then. Last week, Lu...

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