A Beijing-based eviction activist is awaiting a court decision after she sued her local police station for abuse while she was in custody.
A court in the southern district of Fengtai this week began hearing the allegations of police misconduct brought by local petitioner Ge Zhihui.
Ge says that police illegally detained her on Feb. 23, insisting she come to the police station without any documentation of her visit.
Such cases are rarely accepted in Chinese courts, and the hearing itself is a rare victory for the country's army of petitioners, who say they routinely suffer illegal detentions, beatings, and official harassment as they pursue complaints against official wrongdoing.
The hearing was attended on Wednesday by nearly 60 spectators in the public section of the court.
"The Chinese government has been detaining petitioners ahead of the 18th [ruling Chinese Communist] Party Congress [later this year]," Ge said. "These petitioners showed great courage in coming to the court today; there were more than 100 of them, and around 60 went inside."
"There were maybe 30 or 40 people outside who didn't dare go in because they were afraid of being detained as soon as they handed over their ID," she added.
Little hope for result
Ge, who is disabled, has accused officials from the Fengtai district complaints bureau of detaining her at the nearby Yuegezhuang police station after she complained when they photographed her on the way to pursue a complaint.
She has also described a second illegal detention by police officers on March 11.
But she said she doesn't hold out much hope for the result.
"I'm not very optimistic," she said. "They closed the hearing before I was even done talking."
"I just want the police to stop randomly accusing, detaining, and oppressing people."
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.
The contemporary "letters and visits" system was formally established in 1951 and reinstated during the 1980s following the large number of appeals against summary verdicts handed down during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
China says it receives between 3 million and 4 million complaints in the form of "letters and visits" annually, with the number peaking at 12.72 million in 2003.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.