Petitioners Targeted During Major Meetings

Petitioners report tight security and heavy surveillance in Beijing as two major meetings get under way.

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Petitioners 305 Agitated petitioners are seen during a gathering in Beijing on Dec. 3, 2007 to protest against corruption.
AFP/Teh Eng Koon

HONG KONG—Petitioners in the Chinese capital report heavy police surveillance and tight security as China’s two largest annual policy meetings get under way.

Officials at the lianghui or “two big meetings” are expected to focus on alleviating social pressures associated with the global economic crisis.

The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) begins its session on March 3, while the National People’s Congress will open on March 5. Both sessions are held in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Petitioners from around the country—ordinary citizens seeking official redress—say they are being closely monitored by authorities and prevented from airing their grievances in China’s capital.

One petitioner from Shanghai, who asked to not to be named, said police are rounding up petitioners everywhere in Beijing and even boarding public buses to remove them.

“They are targeting people who look like they’re from other provinces and who have different dialects. As far as I know, petitioners who went to the State Council or the Supreme Court have all been taken away. No exception,” the petitioner said.

Zhang Shufeng, a Beijing resident who traveled to the government municipal office to petition with her relatives, said police stopped her bus en route and forced her to return home. Her family is now under house arrest, she said.

“We were taking bus 915 at the time. A police car with four policemen blocked the bus. When they got onto the bus, they scolded us and said we were not allowed to go anywhere.”

Local authorities

Yang Yinghua, a 72-year-old petitioner from China’s eastern Shandong province, arrived at a Beijing hotel with her daughter–in-law on March 1.

Yang planned to protest the delay by local police investigating her son’s death two years ago.

But according to her granddaughter, Yang was taken away by Shandong police when her daughter-in-law left the hotel.

“Originally I planned to go with my mother, but she didn’t let me to go with her. I recently learned my grandmother has been repatriated back to her village. I am still unable to get in touch my mother,” Yang’s granddaughter said.

A petitioner from Hebei province, surnamed Zhang, said he had narrowly escaped police officers who had been following his movements.

“Many people who went to the Supreme Court are first-time petitioners, and they don’t understand the consequences of being detained by their local police who are waiting here. In recent days, so many first-timers have arrived in Beijing,” he said.

Zhang said police and security personnel even searched a village called Shoubaozhuang near Beijing’s southern railroad station to look for petitioners from local provinces late on March 2, before the opening of the CPPCC.

“I think the petitioners are cornered and very frustrated. They might use other ways to voice their grievances, for example by passing out leaflets,” he added.

Distributing leaflets

A group of petitioners distributed leaflets demanding government intervention in their cases on both March 2 and March 3 in Beijing’s Wangfujing Dajie shopping thoroughfare, about one mile (1.6 kms) east of Tiananmen Square, where the two meetings are being held.

One petitioner, surnamed Wu, said she was among a group of people who distributed nearly 6,000 leaflets to pedestrians in only four minutes on March 3.

“Our group had eight petitioners. We got off the bus at Wangfujing Dajie and began throwing the leaflets on the street. Then we fled,” Wu said.

“We fear nothing. If you live in fear, the government will bully you more. In July last year, when I was sleeping, police fired tear gas into my house. My wound is still painful,” she said.

Zhou Li, a petitioner from China’s central Shanxi province, also joined petitioners at Wangfujing Dajie on March 3.

Zhou said the group scattered thousands of petition leaflets but was forced to run from the area before police arrived.

“Security is very tight all around Beijing. We came all the way from Xidan [Western Beijing] and saw police, plainclothes officers, and soldiers all along the roads. We scattered the leaflets and then ran away. When I returned, I saw a dozen police cars guarding the area and collecting the leaflets,” Zhou said.

Sensitive anniversaries

The CPPCC is a political advisory body that consists of delegates from a range of political parties and organizations in China.

The NPC, the highest state body and only legislative house in China, largely serves as a forum for mediating disputes between different parts of China’s Communist Party and the government.

The two parliamentary sessions are expected to debate how best to implement a four trillion yuan (U.S. $ 585 billion) stimulus package that China’s government hopes will improve economic growth and ensure greater social stability.

Rising unemployment has led to widespread social unrest in China, and the central government fear escalating social unrest as a result.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Wen Jian, Fang Yuan, and Qiao Long and in Cantonese by Gei Lai See. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated by Chen Ping. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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