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Massive crackdown on petitioners in Beijing
In lead-up to Central Committee meeting
Nadine Leichter
9/14/2004

In a massive crackdown aimed at removing petitioning citizens from the area where the 16th Communist Party Congress will be held, police have arrested as many as 36,000 citizens and detained them in what rights groups describe as a “concentration camp” in the basement of the Shijingshan Gymnasium in Beijing.

“The Chinese government always feels impelled to round up social malcontents before any major national or international event,” said Liu Qing, president of the New York- based Human Rights in China (HRIC).

HRIC reports that citizens exercising their constitutional rights have been detained without arrest warrants and subjected to other heavy-handed tactics such as beating, kicking and discharging electric stun batons in detainees’ faces.

Petitioners face mandatory return to their hometowns by their local police. Police reportedly receive a bounty for each person returned and are fined if they return empty-handed.

Petitioners traditionally arrive in Beijing before political meetings in order to bring awareness to their grievances over corruption by officials, land confiscation, and over taxation. The majority of appeals are quashed at the local level by officials and never make it to Beijing.

Many of the petitioners have come from poor rural areas and are staying in temporary settlements in Beijing while attempting to have their grievances redressed.

Beijing residents are forbidden to rent houses to those appealing so most of them have gathered in temporary settlements or shantytowns. Police destroyed temporary housing and confiscated personal belongings in the crackdown.

According to news sources, Wang Yuanshun, an older man from Baiyun City of Gansu Province, died on the steps of the Appeal Office of the Supreme Court in Beijing, on August 17, a victim of an apparent beating by authorities. This incident occurred on the eve of the Fourth Plenary Conference of the Communist Party of China.

Witnesses left the body for several hours, as they were afraid of police falsely charging them with the murder if they disturbed the body to locate identification papers.

“This activity is not only unfair to people who have every right to express their grievances, but it exacerbates discontent and social instability, said HRIC president, Liu Qing, “The majority of these petitioners are only in Beijing because they have suffered injustice at the hands of officials, and this kind of abusive police action only victimizes them further.”

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