Join our Mailing List

"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Beijing Rounds Up Its Unwanted

August 1, 2008

Radio Free Asia (RFA)
July 30, 2008

BEIJING, China  Chinese petitioners demonstrate outside a courthouse
in Beijing on April 3, 2008.

HONG KONG -- As Beijing goes into overdrive to prepare for next
month's Olympics, Chinese authorities have intensified a crackdown on
people they don't want to see in the capital until the Games are over.

China's thousands of petitioners -- people trying to lodge complaints
over alleged wrongdoing by officials in their home region -- are
major targets. When lawsuits and local complaint procedures fail to
win redress, thousands of petitioners try to take their cases
directly to the capital. They are often intercepted en route by local police.

Those who get as far as the three main complaints offices in central
Beijing have rarely been welcomed in the past, and have often been
subjected to endless stonewalling and form-filling by officials.
Since preparations began for the Olympics, however, they have been
met with row upon row of official vehicles, armed police, and public
security officials from around the country.

"There were 20 or 30 vehicles to collect us petitioners from
Heilongjiang alone," a woman from the northeastern province said in
an interview this week. "There were People's Armed Police and
People's Liberation Army soldiers there too, all lined up. It was
pretty scary, and we didn't dare to go in there."

"People were being invited in to discuss their cases and then were
being detained and taken away via the back door. I saw this happening
today, so I ran away and hid for fear of being detained," she said.

One petitioner, Wu Tianli, said some petitioners had initially been
surprised by what appeared to be a warm reception at the central
government complaints offices in Beijing, where they were told to
come into the center and register their personal details.

Change in tactics

"They don't stop anybody going in now," said Wu, who said this was a
sudden change in attitude from complaints office officials. "Anyone
can go in, and then they have to join a queue to get a form.
Basically the way it works is once you have gone in, they won't let
you out again."

"Then they take them off in small groups to Majialou, which is a sort
of processing center for petitioners. There are officials from every
province and major city there, and they take the petitioners back to
their hometowns."

A petitioner surnamed Liu, who also visited the complaints office of
the Supreme People's Court in Beijing this week, said security guards
at the scene had told people openly what was going on.

"The security guard there told me, and I actually saw it myself too.
The petitioners could only go into the office, but they weren't
allowed out again," he said. "When they were done inside, they were
detained and taken out through a rear entrance."

He said the petitioners were taken from the Supreme Court to the the
complaints offices of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the
State Council, where there was a bus waiting for them.

"The security guards told me that as soon as you even walk into the
alleyway where the complaints office is, you wouldn't be allowed to
leave again. There were a lot of security guards stationed at both
ends of the alley to stop people getting out again."

Rows of official vehicles

"Most of the old-timers didn't go in there, but a lot of the
relatively inexperienced ones got pulled in and rounded up."

Calls to the central government complaints office went unanswered
during office hours Tuesday.

A petitioner surnamed Zhao said the scene was dramatic. "Things were
a lot tougher at the Supreme People's Court and the NPC and State
Council petition offices...People were going in there and being taken
directly to one of the petitioner processing centers."

"It was pretty dramatic. There were a lot of official vehicles, as if
there was a big official meeting on or something. I heard the
petitioners were being taken straight back to their hometowns this time."

The authorities also appear to be trying to curb the numbers of
migrant workers allowed into the capital, suspending regular labor
recruitment fairs in the city until after the Games are over.

A recruitment fair organizer surnamed Wang said all organizers of
such events had been sent a directive from the Beijing municipal
government ordering them to suspend activities for two months.

Jobs fairs suspended

"We have been asked to suspend operations," Wang said. "This is very
recent. We are allowed to resume on Sept. 20. So that is what we are
going to do. Whatever they decide, we will implement it."

Hong Kong media reports said migrant workers were being told to
relocate to far-off suburbs of Beijing until September. However, an
official who answered the phone at the Beijing municipal labor bureau
did not confirm this.

"I don't know how to answer your question," he said. "Because I
haven't seen any administrative orders saying that migrant workers
aren't allowed."

Release expected

Meanwhile, Beijing-based petitioner and rights activist Ye Guozhu,
who was jailed for four years in 2004 for trying to organize a mass
march of petitioners on Tiananmen Square, was due to be released from
Tianjin's Chaobai Prison on Saturday.

His brother, Ye Guoqiang, said he was unsure whether he would be
welcoming his brother home, however.

"I have just had a call from the Chaobai Prison saying that Ye Guozhu
has been taken back to Beijing. They told us that we should call at
the district police station to collect him," he said.

"But when I called the police station, they said they didn't know
anything about it. So I wonder what they're playing at. Then I
thought perhaps they've taken him to a hotel until the Olympics are over."

"But that really would be a human rights disaster, wouldn't it? Once
the man has served his time, he should be set free," Ye Guoqiang said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan, and in Cantonese by Lee
Wing-tim. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service
director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by
Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank