Woman Tried on Public Order Charges in Shanghai Over Pension Complaint

2017-11-03
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Sun Hongqin is shown petitioning in an undated photo.
Sun Hongqin is shown petitioning in an undated photo.
Photo provided by Sun Hongqin

Authorities in Shanghai on Friday tried a woman for "obstructing public officials" after she pursued complaints for many years through the ruling Chinese Communist Party's petitioning system.

Sun Hongqin was placed in administrative detention after being brought back from Beijing, where she was pursuing a complaint against local officials in Shanghai.

The Shanghai No. 2 Railways and Public Transportation Court heard her case on Friday morning before adjourning, she said.

"Of course the charge of obstructing public officials is unfair," she said. "I only received the notification of the charge against me at around 6.00 p.m. yesterday, and they held the trial this morning."

Sun said pursuing an official complaint via China's "letters and visits" petitioning system doesn't break any of the country's laws.

"It's very unfair of them to use such tactics on me," she said. "If the court prosecuted this case properly, sticking to the law, then I would win for sure."

"They have used all manner of tactics ... and I am not optimistic," she said. "But this is a battle ... I won't be led by the nose by them ... I will continue to sue and complain about their illegal actions."

"I keep fighting, and I keep losing, but whatever happens, I have to keep going," she said.

Tight security at trial

Shanghai rights activist Ren Naijun said he had attended the trial, where security was very tight.

"There were a lot of police outside the court buildings, which seems pretty excessive if they were there because of [Sun]," Ren said.

"I was asked to produce my ID, and I had to leave my cell phone and bag with them."

"But if I had been going to a different chamber, I would have been able to take my cell phone with me," Ren said. "

Sun has been protesting the freezing of her state pension for the past 17 years, as well as her forcible eviction and the demolition of her home in 2010.

To date, she has had no redress for her grievances, and has faced continual harassment from officials targeting both herself and members of her family.

'Heading backwards'

Shanghai-based dissident Ma Yalian said China is regressing when it comes to the rule of law.

"The rule of law has been heading backwards in China in the past few years," he said. "The vise is tightening."

"Ordinary people are still trying to find a way through, but it is a cruel struggle," he said.

Authorities in China have stepped up nationwide "stability maintenance" measures targeting anyone with a critical opinion of the government, as President Xi Jinping consolidates his personal grip on power in the wake of the 19th Party Congress last month.

China's "letters and visits" complaints system is flooded with some 22,000 new complaints daily across the country, according to government figures from 2013.

But petitioners say local authorities often retaliate against them with arbitrary detentions, beatings, and other forms of harassment, and never allow a complaint to make it far enough through the system to qualify for a higher review.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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