Petitioners Protest in Beijing

Authorities detain petitioners targeting a government meeting in China's capital.

2010.09.16
protest-police-305.jpg Authorities increase police presence around Beijing’s embassy district during the People’s Congress meeting.
Photo provided by a Beijing resident

HONG KONG—Police in Beijing detained a group of protesters outside the city's parliament building Thursday after they tried to use a meeting about judicial standards to highlight grievances against the government, petitioners and residents said.

"There are a lot of people outside the the Standing Committee of the [municipal] People's Congress," petitioner Hu Guang said Thursday.

"There are petitioners there with banners and wearing T-shirts complaining about injustice," Hu said. "I heard that some people were detained at around 10 a.m."

A petitioner surnamed Liu said he had seen police detaining people outside the People's Congress building.

"They were all taken away," he said. "I saw it with my own eyes. There were around 60 or 70 people. They don't allow petitioners to pursue grievances. They don't let them lodge official complaints, either."

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.

A petitioner surnamed Shen said a group of petitioners had set up banners at a road intersection not far from the municipal parliament building and the diplomatic quarter of the city, home to most foreign embassies.

"There were 40 or 50 people around the Jianguomen underpass ... who were carrying banners," he said. "Today the municipal People's Congress is hearing work reports from the state prosecutor and the judiciary."

"I heard that they were hearing opinions from ordinary citizens, who could get in if they showed up early to register their names."

"But they only let in a handful of people. [The petitioners] couldn't get in. It wasn't an open meeting," Shen said.

"There are so many cases where people have been petitioning for one or two decades, and the government doesn't sort out their problems," he said.

City lawmakers meet

According to a report on the Beijingren website, municipal lawmakers met Thursday morning to discuss the work of the city's High People's Court, especially in the area of forced evictions and internal supervision, to see if justice was being upheld.

A second group of petitioners marched to the United States Embassy in Beijing, not far from the Jianguomen intersection.

"We are over near the embassy now," said petitioner Xu Fengru, from the northeastern city of Jilin.

"I ... am here with Liu Jinwei from Fuyu county, and Huang Dongqin from Nanjing whose house was demolished. Also, a Ms. Zhu from Jining city in Shandong, and a blind person, but I don't know where they're from."

"There are five of us who came here today."

Xu said they had come to the Embassy because officials at the complaints office in Beijing had refused to accept their petitions.

"They have scratched out all our names. We have been doing this for so many years, but we have had no result," she said.

"The armed policeman at the Embassy gate took our names and called the police, who came in their cars. We explained to them [why we had come] and the police told us not to go back there and to leave immediately."

"After that, we left," Xu said.

Supreme Court targeted

A group of petitioners also gathered outside the Supreme People's Court in Beijing Thursday, petitioners said.

"There are placards calling for the protection of human rights," said a petitioner surnamed Zhang. "They are shouting slogans for justice, telling stories of shady business deals and robbing the poor to give to the rich."

"These are stories that will exhaust your compassion. This is what we call 'Chinese characteristics,'" she said.

Last December, more than 200 petitioners called on China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), to ratify two United Nations human rights covenants that would give further legal recognition to their struggle to protect their rights.

Many petitioners who travel to Beijing to complain are picked up by officials from their hometowns, who run representative offices in the capital for this purpose, and are then escorted back home, where they can face beatings, surveillance, and further detention.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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