As China's leaders were announcing a new "human-centered" policy to the annual parliamentary session in Beijing this week, a leading public figure called for a reappraisal of the official verdict on the Tiananmen Square crackdown — ; while police busied themselves suppressing rural residents hoping to bring petitions to the National People's Congress (NPC).
"The new leaders of the party and the country...should re-examine June 4," wrote Jiang Yanyong, a doctor who became a household name for blowing the whistle on a government cover-up of the extent of SARS, in an open letter to the NPC.
Jiang's letter, which referred to the date in 1989 when tanks and soldiers moved to suppress demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square, said China's Communist Party should settle the mistakes it had committed. "The earlier and the more thoroughly it settles the mistakes, the better," said the letter, posted on a Hong Kong news Web site.
Meanwhile, police detained several petitioners from the northern city of Tangshan who had tried to bring their grievances to the attention of delegates, RFA's Mandarin service reported.
According to activists helping the 10,000 or more rural residents involved, the petitioners had traveled to Beijing to present a petition calling for action against the Tangshan municipal Communist Party chief after his government failed to pay lawful compensation following a forced relocation to make way for a reservoir in 1992.
The former residents of a Manchu minority autonomous region near the coastal city of Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, said they were owed 13,000 yuan (U.S.$1,570) a household in compensation, but that they hadn't seen a penny in 12 years. Their attempts to seek redress had met with no result except for police beatings, detention and sentences to labor camp, the activists said.
Beijing legal scholar Yu Meisun and former judicial official Zhang Youren were with the peasants' delegation of seven, which arrived in Beijing on March 1 in the hope of presenting a petition of 11,283 signatures to the National People's Congress, which convened March 5 in the capital.
"Last night Yu Meisun rang me to say that the Tangshan police had called the Beijing police to warn them that there were 'Falun Gong members and subversives' [on their way to the NPC]," Beijing-based writer Jiang Yaojie told RFA by telephone.
He said Yu, Zhang and the seven other delegates were waylaid by police before they delivered their petition. Zhang and Yu managed to escape, but the other seven were taken back to Tangshan, according to reports.
Yu Meisun hid in a warehouse to escape from police and got gas-poisoning as he tried to find a warm place to spend the night. As a result, he bit off half his tongue and had to have eight stitches. He was unable to say much when interviewed by RFA at his home.
Instead, Jiang told RFA correspondent Fang Yuan he had already posted two articles on the Internet to publicize the incident. "This is really disgraceful. If I hadn't done that, and if they'd been taken away, nobody would ever know what happened to them," he said.
Zhang, who is still in hiding, had sent the petition to the NPC by special delivery instead, according to the Hong Kong-based Sing Pao newspaper. However, NPC officials said they had heard nothing about the issue.
"With this sort of question we would have to try to discover which department was dealing with it, because we haven't heard of it yet," a spokeswoman at the NPC press center told RFA. "We have no record that the Hong Kong Sing Pao newspaper called us [as reported by them]," she said.
China's new generation leaders under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao has scrambled to identify itself with ordinary Chinese people, struggling in the face of rampant official corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor. However, its emphasis on putting people first has yet to be felt by most.