Beijing Rounds Up Petitioners Ahead of Rights Inspection, Anniversary


2004-05-16
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Dozens of long-term petitioners camped outside government offices in Beijing with complaints of official corruption and mistreatment have been rounded up ahead of a visit to China by a U.N. human rights inspector and the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

Of a regular crowd of long-term petitioners outside the municipal government, the government complaints office, and the state prosecution headquarters, the People's Procuratorate, a number of people had already been loaded into vans and taken away, one petitioner told RFA reporter Fang Yuan.

"This morning they took away a whole load of people. It's very confusing and I couldn't tell you exactly what's going on, but we don't know where they were taking them," petitioner Ye Guozhu said.

An official who answered the telephone at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) denied the reports. "We didn't do that... There are proper channels for complaints against officials. We wouldn't deal with them in such a way," he said.

When contacted by RFA later in the day, Ye said he had just escaped from a police van outside the Procuratorate headquarters, however.

"We came here to protest against the actions of the Procuratorate," Ye said. "We hadn't taken any action at all when they grabbed us and put us into vans along with quite a few women from other provinces. You're not allowed to shout 'Down with Corruption', it seems."

Anti-corruption slogans were a major theme of the 1989 mass protests in Beijing which culminated in the crackdown on unarmed protesters on June 4.

Apart from the impending U.N. human rights inspection team visit, the Chinese authorities are increasingly nervous as the 15th anniversary of the crackdown approaches. Inflation has also begun to rise as the economy continues to boom, another factor which sparked the 1989 protests, in which millions took part.

Protests on major thoroughfares and outside government departments have become a regular sight across China, making the problems of millions of peasants, laid-off workers, and those forcibly evicted from their homes all too visible to other sectors of society.

"They lock me up every year. They've done it more than 20 times," said one petitioner. "I can't use force, I can't fight... I told them I haven't broken any laws... They have left me with no home to go to and nothing to eat."

Elsewhere in the city, dozens of angry protesters visited the offices of the Beijing Daily newspaper to complain about a front-page article which they said misrepresented the true situation in their neighborhood.

"On May 7, the Beijing Daily had a front-page splash about a development called the Eastern City Sunshine Project, a completely false piece of news," one of the protesters told RFA. "In the Eastern City district the actual situation of barbarian relocation and evictions which harm people's right to live has not been reported--instead they report this piece of fakery about the project on the front page," said a woman who gave her surname as Ji.

"Everyone was very angry, and about 40 or 50 people went to complain. The director himself came out to talk to us. He admitted that some overbearing words had been said. As for the news, he said they didn't know about the real situation, but that the whole story had come down from a higher department with an official stamp on it," she said.

However, other petitioners reported a sudden positive attitudes of officials to their cause, which are also widely attributed to the pre-inspection clean-up. Beijing has promised not to reveal the inspection itinerary in advance, but sources have told RFA that preparations are almost certainly being made in police stations, prisons, and detention centers across the city.

Petitioner Liu Anjun, who has spent time in detention centers himself, told RFA in a recent interview that no-one would dare to tell the truth to a U.N. inspector who visited them while they were under detention.

"Two days before a visit by city leaders, let alone the United Nations, detention centers and police stations in every district start cleaning up their act for the visit," Liu said. "They tell you what to say. You can't get it wrong. You have to learn it off by heart. If you don't you get beaten."

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