CHINESE COUNTY OFFICIAL SUES POLICE FOR RIGHTS VIOLATION


2004.02.13
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Woman official demands public apology, compensation for treatment during hotel raid

A county-level official in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin has sued a local police station after she said officers burst into her room, manhandled her, and caused her physical and emotional injury, RFA�s Mandarin service reports.

Deputy county chief Wu Lihua is demanding 1.6 million yuan (U.S.$200,000) for emotional suffering and medical costs�and a public apology from the Shulin township police station printed in newspapers.

Wu said male officers burst through the door of her room at the Jiaotong hotel in the town of Yushu on the night of Nov. 18 as she was sleeping.

She said officers dragged her into the hallway, leaving her with cuts and bruises, then threw her on the ground wearing nothing but her underwear, and filmed her with a video camera while other guests and hotel staff looked on.

Legal and human rights experts said that Wu�s story was not uncommon in a country where police routinely rely on strong-arm tactics to round up suspects with scant regard for individual rights.

"According to Article 11 of the Administrative Appeals Law of the People�s Republic of China, this is an illegal act," Chinese legal expert Xiang Xiaoji told RFA. "If the individual�s freedom and privacy were violated, resulting in mental and physical harm, then the victim has the right to sue," said Xiang, now resident in the United States.

The same law requires law enforcement officers to possess evidence of reasonable suspicions before carrying out raids on citizens, he added. "Without that, you have to knock. A hotel room is not a public place. If I rent a hotel room, then that is my private space, and you can�t just burst in like that."

Sweden-based Chinese rights activist Mo Li told RFA that Wu�s case could set a valuable example if it succeeds. "It�s a good thing that not only did this woman survive, she also had the courage and ability to bring a complaint against the police," Mo said. "I hope that this case becomes a precedent and protects the rights of other citizens and the rights of women."

Local police officers had apologized to Wu in person and visited her at her hospital room, according to a report in the Changchun Evening News seen by the Associated Press. They claimed Wu had made her own way into the hotel corridor.

Mo said this story was unlikely. "Just think, a woman sleeping alone in a hotel at night, with a police raid and arrests going on outside�it�s not very likely that she ran outside in her underwear."

Reports of police brutality, including death by beating, are common throughout China, and are often linked to corrupt practices within the Public Security Bureau or local government officials, who frequently regard the police as their private thugs.

While police are more likely to treat roughly those with lower social status, such as migrant laborers from poorer provinces, some cases where the victim�s identity was mistaken have turned the spotlight on the practice.

Last year, Chinese media gave widespread coverage to the beating death in police custody of university graduate Sun Zhigang, who was detained because he was unable to produce an identity card, and came from a different part of China.

A total of 23 people, including six local civil servants, have received death penalties and prison terms ranging from three years to life for Sun's murder. #####

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