Woman Held Over Letter to Wen

A longtime petitioner is detained after signing a letter asking the Chinese premier about his financial assets.
2013-01-02
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A policeman stops a group of petitioners from demonstrating outside a hospital in Beijing, May 7, 2012.
AFP

A Beijing woman who signed a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao calling on him to confirm or deny reports that his family holds billions of dollars in hidden assets said she was detained for more than a month and ordered to apologize before being released with a police warning.

Petitioner Ge Zhihui added her name to the letter sent by a group of petitioners to the leader ahead of the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in November.

She was detained by Beijing police and locked up in a cage in a local detention center for 40 days, Ge told RFA's Cantonese Service Wednesday following her release.

"The police told me that my actions had made a bad impression on the premier," Ge said. They asked her, "'You say the premier [has billions], but is this confirmed?'"

Ge, who last February also wrote to Wen asking for a loan to cover her living expenses, said police had made her write another message as an apology, before informing her that Wen had never seen her letter in the first place.

"After that they forced me to write a letter of apology, and I had to copy out what they told me to write," she said.

Premier Wen

Wen, whose public image is projected as that of a caring, relatively liberal leader, is often the focus of petitioners' protests and complaints, and police have mounted a heavy guard on his Beijing residence, detaining anyone who approaches.

Ge's fellow petitioner Lin Xiuli is thought to have been sent to a psychiatric institution after she approached Wen while petitioning at a Beijing railway station last May.

Ge has been petitioning the authorities for compensation, to no avail, for a number of years after she was crippled by a beating and lost all her property.

She said the authorities had continued to harass and detain her for years, and that she had been beaten up by Wen's own plainclothes security police when she tried to approach him at the railway station at the same time as Lin.

China’s army of petitioners say they are repeatedly stonewalled, detained in “black jails,” beaten, and harassed by authorities if they try to take complaints against local government actions to higher levels of government.

Many have been trying to win redress for alleged cases of official wrongdoing—including forced evictions, beatings in custody, and corruption linked to lucrative land sales—for decades.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.