My name is Zhang Dongcui. I am from Pingyang county in China's Zhejiang province, where I was employed as a teacher at the Qiancang Town Center Primary School in February 1974.
I used to live in Qiancang township, but later I moved to Changda near Beijing, where I lived for more than 30 years. Now I and the other two members of my family live in the United States.
My father was a Protestant missionary; he died in 1992. I still have my mother, who is 98 years old now, and five brothers and a sister. We all come from farming stock.
Two of my brothers were in the military, but they have been demobilized now. That is our family's situation in a nutshell.
There were only 54 teachers in Qiancang, and nine of us were humiliated, beaten up and otherwise injured, one of us twice. I started petitioning because of this incident. I was among those who were pretty badly injured.
It was about 6 a.m. on June 24, 1982. I was on duty that morning, and I was heading for the school to teach class. As I walked past the gates of my attackers' home, they grabbed my hair, held my hands and beat me until I was severely injured, with blood coming out of my mouth. I fell to the ground in a daze.
This was because when my brothers were in the army back in 1960, my dad was a missionary, and so our lives were very difficult. My brothers and sisters were still very young, and they had to go to school. The local government allocated some work in the firewood market, right next door to my attackers' home.
Their father was a member of the Communist Party, as well as head of the supply and marketing cooperative, so he was the head honcho in those parts. Because of this, his nephew was head of the local police station, and his old friend, who had been in the police force for 28 years, was deputy chief of police. The county party committee and the complaints department were all filled with their friends. He used to like to beat people up on a regular basis.
He told some neighbors ... to take away my mother's weighing scale [which she needed for her work] and to throw it in the river, the counterweight too, and then they beat my mother and injured her. She was old then, 65 at the time. None of us was there at the time.
After some negotiations with the township and village officials, my mother's medical expenses were reimbursed ... But this was just a show, so that other people would think that they had resolved this affair ... by apologizing and admitting they had done wrong.
‘Nobody powerful to back us up’
Little did I imagine that the next day they would attack me as well — not the exact same guy but someone else from his clique. He would have told him to do it.
Our family is from a farming background, and we had nobody powerful to back us up. My brothers tried to lodge complaints, but they weren't accepted by anyone at any department, because they were all within the same network of relations.
They stopped my salary and they took away [more than a third of] my ration tickets [necessary to buy basic foodstuffs]. I couldn't afford the medical bills at the hospital where I was being treated in Wenzhou.
The municipal leader said he would take the case because he knew the head of the hospital, who knew I was an innocent person who had been beaten up. He agreed to take the case.
They issued an arbitration decision ordering the education authorities to pay my medical bills and hoped I would carry on with my work ... and focus on carrying out my teaching profession. But my lawsuit was [rejected], and ... I never received the 750 yuan [U.S. $114] I was promised.
I took the case to Beijing in May 1985, and then ... it was a long, long process during which I was in Beijing the whole time. I was 26 or 27 then, and I remained in Beijing for 30 years.
I was told at the education ministry that they could do nothing about attacks on teachers, and that I should go to the police. "Go home!" they said.
Later, there were so many petitioners that you couldn't even squeeze in by the door. The place was packed with people who had started lining up in the early hours of the morning.
Back in 1985, 1986, you didn't have the land grabs, the forced evictions and demolitions. When that happened, all the farming communities started to petition en masse.
It's not often that a teacher gets beaten up, but while I was in the education ministry I ran into many teachers who had been framed because of corruption in their schools, which accused them of raping a student and then helped the student bring a court case [against them].
There were a lot of cases like that, and they were frightening.
Reported by Zhang Min for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.