Petitioner Zhu Guiqin from the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang says she was raped in Beijing while petitioning central authorities over what she said was a family member's wrongful imprisonment. Zhu reported the April 11 attack to police in her hometown of Fushun, but says they have refused to set up an investigation. 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. Female petitioners, some of whom 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, are particularly vulnerable to violent treatment during such extra-judicial detentions:
"[The police] refused to accept my statement and told me to go to Beijing, which is where the incident took place. They send four or five people from the neighborhood committee every day, to follow me wherever I go. How can I go to Beijing? All I asked was that they should take a statement, but they said they wouldn't do that. I have already complained about this to the local prosecutor's office, and they wanted me to write a complaint. But my mind is so confused right now. If you asked me to write something it would get even more confused."
Zhu said she was kidnapped off the streets in Beijing and stuffed into a van. The men took away her identity documents, mobile phone, USB drive, bank cards and cash. She then had a hood placed over her head and her hands and feet tied with plastic. Half an hour later, a man called "Xiao Hai" got into the van.
"He put his hand inside my trousers and started feeling around, then he pulled off my trousers, got on top of me and pinned me down with his weight. They even threatened me, saying I shouldn't tell anyone about this, and I shouldn't hate them, but my local government. They said 'we don't know why your local government hates you this much.'"
After the attack, Zhu was driven for a while more, and then taken to a small windowless room and held for two days. Her captors drove her back to Fushun on April 13, where she was met by the vice Party secretary of the sub-district office. She was held captive in her home for a further three days.
"These people are all total bandits ... they put a black bag over your head and they kick and beat you. They are particularly bad towards women, and they use really disgusting language. Anyone who hears it feels sullied by it," Zhu said.
Rights lawyers say that Zhu's ordeal is not an isolated incident, although few victims have spoken out about their experiences. They say that rape and sexual assault is commonly reported by women detained for pursuing complaints against their local governments, with officials hiring local criminal gang members to do their dirty work for them.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.