HONG KONG—Police departments in China’s eastern boomtown of Shanghai routinely harass and detain ordinary citizens who file complaints against the actions of local officials, particularly over forced evictions to make way for property developments as prices skyrocket.
One such petitioner, Zhu Donghui, organized a series of civil action protests on behalf of resettled families in the city. Zhu was tortured by police officer Liu Jianguo of the Baoshan district Public Security Bureau, before being sentenced to one year’s reform through labor for creating a public disturbance in April.
"I have no rights so far. I have been stripped of all my rights by the government..."
When his family heard of his fate, they gave interviews to foreign media, and have subsequently been harassed by local police, Zhu brother Zhu Dongbing told RFA’s Mandarin service.
“At 2:30 p.m. on July 12, two people including Liu Jianguo from the Baoshan Public Security Bureau and an unidentified person demanded to talk to me through my work unit leader. They threatened me and said that I was interviewed by media with overseas ties,” Zhu Dongbing said.
“They claimed that everything I said in the interview was nonsense and lies. They said that my behavior constituted the crime of disturbing public order. However, they would only educate and guide me this time. I wouldn¹t get into trouble if I confessed to what I had done,” Zhu said.
He said Liu had warned him that if he continued to give interviews to foreign media, he would be punished “according to state law.” Reform through labor is an administrative sentence that can be imposed for up to three years without trial.
Meanwhile, resettled families in Shanghai’s Baoshan have donned shirts with printed slogans saying “Uphold Constitutional dignity” and “Restore my human rights,” and taken their case to central government in Beijing.
On one trip, a number of Baoshan petitioners were turned back by personnel dispatched by Shanghai municipality. Among them was a resident called Chen Xiuqing. She was arrested in July under a public disturbance charge. Ai Furong, husband of Chen Xiuqing learned that it was the Shanghai city government that wanted Chen Xiuqing punished:
“After she was arrested and sent back on July 5, the police officer asked her, ‘Why do you have to wear a shirt that says “Restore my human rights” at the back?’” Ai said.
“My wife then said, ‘I have no rights so far. I have been stripped of all my rights by the government so the shirt that I wear is very appropriate.’ My wife asked the police officer, ‘Do I break the law by wearing this shirt?’ The police officer answered, ‘No, but it seems a little distasteful.’ She was released on July 6,” Ai said.
He said Chen was detained again when she went to the Xuhui district complaints office on July 15.
“Soon after her arrival, the police officers from the opposite police station came. After that, those from the sub-station probably came too and took my wife Chen Xiuqing away by force on the ground that she was suspected of disrupting public order,” Ai said.
“Her crime was stated in her indictment. The captain from the opposite police station told me that it was the city government’s idea to punish her and not theirs. Thus, they couldn’t do anything. He said he had to do what they asked him to in order to keep his job.”
China has seen a massive rise in recent months in complaints from people evicted from their homes by corrupt local officials, prompting mass demonstrations by petitioners in major cities and in the capital, Beijing.
In a growing official recognition of the scale of social unrest now sweeping China, official statistics for June 22 show more than 18,600 complaints regarding demolitions and forced relocations were made to the Ministry of Construction since the beginning of the 2004. In all of 2003, China’s Ministry of Construction reported 18,000 complaints.
Forced evictions are piling on top of many other social and economic pressures in China, creating tremendous pressure on social stability at a time when central government has little muscle to curb the actions of local officials involved in property scams.
Local police or gangs of heavies are frequently called in by local governments to enforce evictions related to lucrative property scams, and relocated families frequently complain of no legal process and scant compensation.