China dissident Ai Weiwei makes film on disputed death over land grab

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has made a 102-minute film on the death of a villager whose crushing by a truck sparked public anger and rattled authorities, he announced today.

A court in eastern Zhejiang province in 2011 ruled the gruesome death of 53-year-old Qian Yunhui accidental, triggering outrage from those who suspected he was killed for campaigning over land seizures.

"We don't know how he died," Mr Ai said by phone. "It's not possible to take a position because in China there is no truth for any incident. It's just always half of the truth and half of the truth is not the truth." Mr Ai, an internationally renowned avant-garde artist, has emerged as a fierce critic of the government in Beijing, often through his prolific use of the Internet.

The film about Qian - which Mr Ai said took two years to make - was posted on YouTube and includes footage of the site of the death and interviews with villagers and others about the case.

Qian, the leader of Zhaiqiao village, had sought compensation for farmers whose land was confiscated to make way for a power station, and his death stirred passions after doubt was cast on the official version of events.

Explicit photos posted online appeared to show him crushed under the wheels of a truck.

Qian had been detained three times since 2005 for repeatedly demanding compensation for farmers after nearly 150ha of land was seized by Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group Company, earlier reports said.

Chatrooms hosting discussions of the case on Netease and other major Chinese portals were later shut down, apparently to stifle anti-government comments.

Land requisitions by the authorities, often in collusion with real estate developers, remain one of China's most controversial issues, with officials routinely accused of enriching themselves through arbitrary land grabs.