Chinese Petitioners Scooped Up by Police


2004-07-22
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HONG KONG — ; The Chinese authorities have scooped up some 100 petitioners who traveled from then northeastern province of Heilongjiang to protest outside government offices in Beijing. Whether they had been detained was unclear.

One group of former mining workers managed to dodge police who turned back some 400 protesters from the same province outside the capital at the weekend, arriving in Beijing in small groups and demonstrating briefly outside the Complaints Office of China's State Council, an eyewitness told RFA's Mandarin service.

Meanwhile, officials at the Communist Party's Organization Department in Beijing beat at least one petitioner and took away a group of 100 peasants who were petitioning against their treatment by local officials.

"There were quite a lot of them from the mining bureau," the woman told RFA reporter Fang Yuan. "They'd only been there a few minutes when some people came out of the State Council building and took them inside, then took them away in vehicles."

"I don't know where they took them. It's unclear at the moment what's going on," she said.

Outside the Organization Department, eyewitnesses said two officials from the department beat 60-year-old petitioner from Suihe City, Lu Baode, to the ground, following a protest against the loss of their farmland.

"They were all singing. They're all from a different province. I think it was in protest that the petitioner that got beaten up," a Beijing resident said. "After that, they were all taken away. I don't know where."

"Don't ask me, I don't know," a police officer from the station on the same street as the Organization Department said repeatedly, when asked to confirm the incident.

An official at the Jixi Mining Bureau in Heilongjiang, the group's former employer, said he had heard nothing of the protest outside the State Council Complaints Office so far.

But he confirmed that disgruntled former workers had blocked a major railway line in the province earlier this month. "It started on July 3 and was settled on July 6," the official said. "There were only about 300 people," he said in response to previous reports that up to 3,000 staged a sit-in on the Jixi to Harbin line, "the rest of them were onlookers."

"If any of our people go to Beijing to protest, the State Council would call us and we would have to leave immediately to go and get them," he added.

On Saturday, Beijing police turned back some 400 former mining workers from Heilongjiang who attempted to enter the capital in a large convoy of vehicles following a suicide bid by 23 fellow petitioners last week. The 23 threatened to jump from a 20-meter building outside China's Supreme Court last Monday after failing to get their grievances heard. They are still being detained in by police in the southern district of Fengtai.

Those protesters were mostly former workers from the Hegang City Mining Bureau, whose leaders are suspected of appropriating funds intended as severance pay for mass layoffs between 1996 and 1998.

Jixi, a mining town in the south of the province, has also suffered mass layoffs following bankruptcies at its state-owned coal-mines, followed by several years of protests by former miners at unpaid pensions.

One group of former mining workers managed to dodge police who turned back some 400 protesters from the same province outside the capital at the weekend, arriving in Beijing in small groups and demonstrating briefly outside the Complaints Office of China's State Council, an eyewitness told RFA's Mandarin service.

Meanwhile, officials at the Communist Party's Organization Department in Beijing beat at least one petitioner and detained a group of 100 peasants who were petitioning against their treatment by local officials.

"There were quite a lot of them from the mining bureau," the woman told RFA reporter Fang Yuan. "They'd only been there a few minutes when some people came out of the State Council building and took them inside, then took them away in vehicles."

"I don't know where they took them. It's unclear at the moment what's going on," she said.

Outside the Organization Department, eyewitnesses said two officials from the department beat 60-year-old petitioner from Suihe City, Luo Baoge, to the ground, following a protest against the loss of their farmland.

"They were all singing. They're all from a different province. I think it was in protest that the petitioner that got beaten up," a Beijing resident said. "After that, they were all taken away. I don't know where."

"Don't ask me, I don't know," a police officer from the station on the same street as the Organization Department said repeatedly, when asked to confirm the incident.

An official at the Jixi Mining Bureau in Heilongjiang, the group's former employer, said he had heard nothing of the protest outside the State Council Complaints Office so far.

But he confirmed that disgruntled former workers had blocked a major railway line in the province earlier this month. "It started on July 3 and was settled on July 6," the official said. "There were only about 300 people," he said in response to previous reports that up to 3,000 staged a sit-in on the Jixi to Harbin line.

"If any of our people go to Beijing to protest, the State Council would call us and we would have to leave immediately to go and get them," he added.

On Saturday, Beijing police turned back some 400 former mining workers from Heilongjiang who attempted to enter the capital in a large convoy of vehicles following a suicide bid by 23 fellow petitioners last week. The 23 threatened to jump from a 20-meter building outside China's Supreme Court last Monday after failing to get their grievances heard. They are still being detained in by police in the southern district of Fengtai.

Those protesters were mostly former workers from the Hegang City Mining Bureau, whose leaders are suspected of appropriating funds intended as severance pay for mass layoffs between 1996 and 1998.

Jixi, a mining town in the south of the province, has also suffered mass layoffs following bankruptcies at its state-owned coal-mines, followed by several years of protests by former miners at unpaid pensions.

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