China mayor told to resign after villagers kneel

BEIJING (AP) — Local officials in northeastern China have ordered the mayor of a small city to resign after he ignored scores of villagers who knelt in front of government offices to appeal for an investigation into official corruption, state media said Sunday.

The Dalian city government on Saturday ordered the mayor of Zhuanghe city to resign for his "mismanagement" of the April 13 incident, according to the website of the People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper.

The mass petition was widely reported on Chinese websites and Internet users at the time slammed Sun Ming, the mayor, for his lack of response to the villagers. Zhuanghe is a city of about 900,000 people in Liaoning province.

Dozens of villagers had traveled to the Zhuanghe city government in an attempt to meet higher-level authorities to ask for help dealing with local leaders they believed were embezzling public funds, taking bribes and neglecting their duties, news reports said.

"We waited a long time, but no officials came out from the government building to meet us, so we had to go down on our knees in front of the building," said Sun Zhihong, a resident of Zhuanghe's Longwangmiao village, according to the China Daily newspaper in a recent report. "But the mayor never came out to meet us."

Leaders of Dalian, which oversees the administration of Zhuanghe, said in a statement following a meeting Saturday about the mass petition that officials "must attach great importance to the reasonable demands of the masses" and "respond with enthusiasm."

Phone calls to the Dalian government and the Zhuanghe city government rang unanswered Sunday.

China has long struggled against corruption among Communist Party officials and considers graft a major threat to social stability and a serious challenge to its continuing grip on power. The central government often orders local officials to work harder at addressing public grievances in their areas, but many people frequently complain that local leaders continue to ignore their concerns.