A Uyghur farmer disabled in an altercation with a local official in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region is still awaiting compensation after 10 years of petitioning left him penniless and with no livelihood, saying local authorities worked together to prevent his case from being heard.
Obulhesen Abdukerim, a 41-year-old father of two, was left paralyzed on one side of his body after he was beaten by the brother of an official from his village of Aqtash, in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) city’s Lasguy township in a dispute triggered by the destruction of his farm.
But he told RFA’s Uyghur Service that a closely-knit network of local and regional officials have conspired to prevent him from obtaining justice in his decade-long fight to have the perpetrators punished and to have his physical and emotional suffering compensated.
“In China, the decisions of local authorities are increasingly affecting the fate of the peasants,” Abdukerim said, adding that “the law and official regulations don’t work in remote areas.”
“I lost all of my family’s fortune and opportunities during my 10-year court battle. My family has suffered physically, psychologically, and economically.”
Abdukerim said the value of the compensation he has been demanding from the person who had beaten him as well as the local authorities had snowballed to a whopping 13 million yuan (U.S. $2.15 million), including his medical and legal fees, and his suffering.
Abdukerim said that the altercation that led to his disability stemmed from a June 2001 disagreement with Mettohti Tursunniyaz, the head of the residential district of Aqtash, following which the official sent a team to destroy his 1.6-mu (one-fourth-acre) cotton crop.
According to village regulations, Tursunniyaz was obligated to pay 1,665 yuan (U.S. $275) to Abdukerim for the damages.
Abdukerim maintains that not only was he never paid the money, but Tursunniyaz also withheld money that was due to him at the end of 2001 as part of a return for overpayment of village taxes.
Years later, on Jan. 17, 2004, Tursunniyaz and several other men visited Abdukerim’s home demanding that he pay 15 yuan (U.S. $2.50) as part of a village livestock vaccination fee, but the farmer and his wife refused, telling him to take it out of the money he owed them.
During the argument, Abdukerim said, Tursunniyaz began to beat his wife and when he joined in to break the two of them up, the official’s brother Metniyaz dealt him a blow to the head with a club, knocking him out and leaving him paralyzed.
Abdukerim was comatose for 12 hours, during which authorities brought him to a private clinic in Hotan, but according to the farmer, the local officials conspired with hospital staff to downplay the severity of his injury to protect their jobs and he was given a clean bill of health after he regained consciousness.
Ten years of petitioning
After two years of fighting to have his case heard, Abdukerim was able to get a local hospital to acknowledge that he was suffering from paralysis and, armed with this evidence, he convinced the Hotan city court to hold a trial.
The court found Metniyaz guilty for his role in the assault and sentenced him to several years in China’s “laogai” gulag system, known as “reform through labor,” but Abdukerim has called the decision “light,” and charged that other officials and local doctors involved in the case should also be punished.
Since then, Abdukerim and his family, who began renting a home in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi three years ago to help facilitate his petitioning, have had little success winning redress.
Abdukerim said he had appealed to individuals and institutions at various different levels of government, including his village head and security chief, staff at the village hospital and private clinic, the Lasguy township police station, the Hotan city government, the Hotan prefectural government, the Xinjiang Regional Hygiene Department, the High Court of Urumqi, and even China’s Supreme Court in Beijing.
“I think people who hold power from the local authorities to those in the [Xinjiang] regional government have already created their own social web and inner circle,” he said.
“They never listen to the voice of the citizens.”
Abdukerim said that his petitioning had left him and his family barely able to scrape by financially and that they were unable to afford an attorney to help with his case.
“Therefore, I have been studying the laws and regulations on my own during the past 10 years. I have become my own attorney, despite only having a primary school education,” he said.
“I demand … payment for my 10 years lost, my family’s ten years of suffering, and my paralyzed body, and I possess all of the evidence and documents to support my case.”
“This is a complete injustice and I will never give up my struggle until it is resolved satisfactorily.”
Reported and translated by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.