Although China’s peasants have repeatedly resorted to violence in recent years, most confrontations have been spontaneous uprisings over local land seizures, unconnected to eruptions elsewhere. But Lu, under the guidance of Beijing-based democracy advocates, sought to apply the experiences of his own village to the struggles of others, taking his activism national.
His main weapon was Chinese law, the letter of which offers many guarantees that, in practice, are often set aside by party leaders. In a country where the Communist Party crushes any attempt at forming associations outside its control, Lu’s goal of spreading the word on how to use law books to oppose local leaders amounted to a relatively novel political challenge.
His passage from pumpkins to politics was not without cost. Lu has been severely beaten twice by thugs who he said were dispatched by local party authorities eager to cash in on land transactions at the expense of farmers. The Public Security Bureau, he said, still keeps a close watch on his home village of Baoyuesi, near Yichang, about 320 miles southwest of Beijing.