HONG KONG—A petitioner in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong has vowed to take her complaint over the killing of her father to Beijing after being put under surveillance and beaten for trying to re-open an investigation into his death.
Yang Wenru, of Danjian village near Haiyang city, said several village residents saw a group of "security guards" hired by the local village chief pounce on her father, Yang Quan Yong, in July 2007 after he began to probe the accounts of the local village committee.
The committee was suspected of embezzling funds for construction of a senior citizens' home and payments that should have been made to villagers for agriculture.
They stabbed him twice in the chest and he died instantly."
"It happened at about 10 a.m. that day. My father had gone to investigate the issue of the seed money with another villager, and there were some security guards hired by the village secretariat following them," Yang Wenru said.
"In one of the alleyways of the village, there were a lot of women working, and they all saw it."
"There were five people and they killed my father really quickly. They grabbed him around the neck and by the arms, and they stabbed him twice in the chest and he died instantly," she said.
His wife, Yang Xiufen, told the authorities in her petitioning letter that in June 2007, a number of villagers had complained about proceedings related to public money at the village committee.
Within a few days, the chairman of the village committee had found out the contents of their deposition and the names of those who signed it.
Threats followed complaint letter
All were subjected to threats of violence in the few days that followed, and many had their belongings smashed up in their homes. The chairman of the village committee, Yang Fengxian, threatened to "cripple" them in an open letter himself.
After Yang Quan Yong's death, police appeared reluctant to investigate the matter thoroughly, even though the people who had killed him were still at large in the village, Yang Wenru said.
It wasn't until they had received a full and frank confession from the killers themselves that they approached the village chairman himself, she said.
Yet the Haiyang municipal police did nothing to apprehend Yang Fengxian. Instead, they closed the case, treating it as a personal matter.
"The police received reports but they did nothing about it," Yang Wenru said. "The villagers were saying, 'The murderers are here, arrest them, quickly!' Then the village secretary came round in a minibus and took them all away."
"Then, when they were investigating the case, they caught a couple of them, but they released them again after a couple of days. Now it's just one person they are holding, and they are saying that he and my father got into a fight, completely changing the nature of the case."
Officials decline to comment
Haiyang municipal police chief Zhang Jianzhong hung up immediately when contacted Sunday. An official at the Dongcun township government repeatedly said "I don't know" when asked for details of the case.
Yang Wenru said the family's attempts to pursue complaints about the case through official channels had met with stonewalling by police and government officials, with no response given to their depositions.
"I and my sister and my mother have been many times to beg them to do something. Each time we go to the police, they put us off. They have beaten us, or they simply won't let us go there in the first place," she said.
"It's pretty much the same if we try to go to [nearby] Yantai or to Haiyang. So we will try to take it to central government. We are taking it one step at a time," Yang Wenru added.
"We hired a lawyer, but they frightened him off, or bribed him. There are criminal connections everywhere we turn. It's like the mafia."
Wave of petitions
She said the head of the village committee and the local municipal police chief had close ties, with plenty of vested economic interests around the case.
Every time they petitioned they were told that the local government would investigate, but they had little hope of any result.
Local government officials are struggling to control the millions of disgruntled people trying to get to Beijing to complain about alleged official wrongdoing, often related to property deals, forced evictions, corruption, and officially sanctioned violence against family members.
Those who are caught are often held with no official charge against them in a growing number of "black jails" or holding camps for the large numbers of people who flock to central government complaints departments in the capital daily.
For those seeking redress for grievances against the government, tales of success are rare, and yet the hope of it propels some to spend decades taking their papers from department to department.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Shi Shan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.