From Usa Today, via Yahoo!news:
Two particularly brazen cases over the past few months have exposed the way local strongmen are using hired thugs to smother grass-roots democracy and prevent ordinary Chinese people from asserting their rights.
In Taishi, a prosperous village of 2,000 in Guangdong province across the border from Hong Kong, citizens attempted this summer to recall their elected leader, Chen Jinsheng. Chen was under suspicion for corruption. When the county government rejected their petition on a technicality, the villagers staged protests, at times clashing with local police.
Their story, seen as a test case for grass-roots democracy, began to attract Chinese reporters and activists to Taishi.
In September, Leu Siew Ying, a reporter for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper who came to hear the villagers’ grievances, was roughed up. The windshield of her taxi also was shattered. She says she learned from villagers that the men had been paid about $12 a day, plus a bonus of $490 for busting up her car.
By contrast, Guangdong factory workers are fortunate to earn $5 a day.