03/27/2009, 00.00
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Anyone asking for justice in China can end up in prison, forced labour or tortured

According to a human rights group, tens of people in Heilongjiang are locked up in prison or sent to Re-education-through-Labour camps to stop them from presenting petition against local authorities.
Beijing AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reports that tens of residents from the faraway province of Heilongjiang have been arrested, badly beaten by police, sent to prison or hospital after travelling to Beijing to ask the authorities for justice.

Chen Jinxia, a petitioner from Dailing District, Yichun City, Heilongjiang Province, has suffered nearly two years of arbitrary detention since she was first intercepted on 24 April 2007.  Over the past 23 months, she has been separated from her son, beaten, sent to a Re-education-through-Labour (RTL) camp, and is now held in what is called a “black jail”, that is an unofficial detention centre. 

According to her family, Chen started petitioning after her husband developed a mental illness as a result of repeated detention by local authorities in retaliation for his persistent petitioning. When Chen left for Beijing on 24 April 24 2007 to petition higher authorities, she brought her then 12-year-old son, Song Jide.  They were intercepted in Beijing and sent to Ma Jia Lou, a “black jail” in the capital.  After their release, as they were boarding a local bus to return to their hostel in Beijing, interceptors from her hometown forcibly dragged her off the bus. The bus departed with Chen’s son. When Chen protested, one of the interceptors, the head of the Dailing Letters and Visits Office, Yang Haifeng, told her “not to bother” about Song, stating that he would “take care of the matter”. The other interceptors, including two from Dailing District Public Security Bureau (PSB), forcibly returned Chen to Dailing. 

Upon her return, Chen was administratively detained for ten days. She was beaten, her spine was injured, and she was left paralysed. On 5 May 2007, Chen was released from the detention center. On 13 May the Dailing Letters and Visits Office told Chen that the child could not be found. After hearing the news, Chen spent two days going to various government offices pleading to speak with officials, but she was repeatedly rebuffed and dragged away. On 15 May, local authorities sent Chen to Dailing Hospital for “treatment”.  She was held there until 30 June, when she evaded her monitors and attempted to take a taxi to Yichun to petition the mayor. Chen was caught by the police, and at the local police station, she broke a sheet of glass in anger.

Because of the offence, Chen was ordered held in a RTL camp for “damaging public property” for 18 months. After serving the 18 months, and immediately upon her release on 24 December 2008, Chen was sent to a “black jail” at No.226 Kangan Community in Dailing District. Currently held in a windowless room, Chen is guarded by four people who will not allow her to step outside. Members of Chen’s family who have tried to advocate on her behalf have been threatened and harassed by Dailing authorities.

“This wrenching tale of a mother’s anguish and suffering offers fresh evidence of a province where officials have been particularly ruthless towards petitioners and rights activists whilst enjoying total impunity,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Moreover, Heilongjiang is rich in agriculture, and land disputes have become particularly intense.  The provincial leadership has given local authorities free rein to smother dissent as they wish to please the central government with this mirage of ‘harmony’,” Xia said.

In the past 18 months, CHRD has documented many cases of arbitrary detention of petitioners and human rights activists in Heilongjiang Province for exposing misconduct by local authorities. At least five of those documented involved torture and beating while in custody.  One petitioner, Luo Shubo, died on 24 August 2008 after local officials repeatedly prevented her from seeking medical treatment while detained in an RTL camp.

The brazenness of the Heilongjiang authorities is also illustrated by the case of human rights activist, Yang Chunlin, who was repeatedly beaten and tortured in police custody.  Once, he was beaten with electric batons by a court policeman for merely attempting to speak with his family during his sentencing hearing.

CHRD wishes to draw attention to the pattern of human rights abuses in Heilongjiang Province illustrated by the cases listed below.

Liu Jie, from Xunke County, is serving 18 months in a RTL camp for collecting signatures for the petition, ‘Constitutional Democracy: the Foundation for Addressing Social Grievances’, signed by 12,150 petitioners. Liu has been repeatedly tortured and beaten during her incarceration. Liu began the petition in order to obtain compensation after local authorities broke a contract and took back the contracted farm which Liu had turned into a profitable enterprise.

Yuan Xianchen, an activist and “barefoot lawyer” from Jixi City, is serving four years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power”. Yuan is best known for acting as a legal advisor for workers at the Didao Mine in Jixi City who have been seeking compensation from the local government since the former state-owned business was re-structured and privatised. Yuan has been tortured in detention.

Yang Chunlin, a worker and activist from Jiamusi City,  is serving five years in prison for collecting signatures for an open letter, ‘We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics’, signed by more than 10,000 people, mostly Heilongjiang farmers fighting forced eviction. Yang has been repeatedly tortured during incarceration.

Ren Shangyan and Kong Qiang, researchers at the China Justice Advocacy Web, are serving three years of imprisonment for investigating accusations of nepotism against a Shuangyashan official.

Li Yuzhen, from Muling City, was barred by Muling City police from leaving the women’s RTL camp in Harbin on 11 March after completing her one-year term there. The police threatened to send her back to the camp if she did not go with them. Li was finally allowed to leave after she signed a pledge that she would not petition during the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee in March.  Li was given one year of RTL treatment for petitioning about her brother’s death, which she believes was caused by torture whilst in police custody.

Li Shuchun, from Yilan County, was held in custody between 14 January 2008 and 27 February 2009 for leading a group of 100 workers in seeking government action against corrupt management at the Hongqi Racecourse in Yilan County. Instead of heeding the request the local government collaborated with the racecourse management to have the workers arrested.

Luo Shubo, a petitioner from Anda City, died on 24 August 2008 after she was repeatedly denied medical treatment at the Qiqihaer RTL camp. Luo had submitted a petition after she won a court case but failed to get the compensation to which she was entitled.  Despite her many illnesses, including heart disease, Luo was sent to two years of RTL on 30 October 2007.

Du Fengqin, a petitioner from Qiqihar City, had repeatedly petitioned against the local government for seizing her land without due process or adequate compensation. To pre-empt her from petitioning during the 17th Party Congress in October 2007, Du was detained prior to the Congress. Then on 16 October, the authorities sent her for one year of RTL claiming that she had “disrupted normal petitioning procedures” whilst in Beijing.

Jiang Yongwen went to Beijing to submit a petition on 22 September 2007 in order to reveal the true number of deaths reported by the local government in a mine accident in Baoqing County. Jiang was intercepted and sent to RTL.

Sun Chongping, from Mudanjiang City, was detained in a black jail at Mudanjiang Assistance Station Children’s Relief Centre to prevent her from petitioning during the “Two Meetings” in March 2008. Sun tried to escape on 12 March but was caught, sent back to the same jail and beaten by police officers. Sun was told that she would be detained until after the Olympics. At present it is unclear whether she has been released or not. She was petitioning about misconduct by local family planning authorities.

Wang Fucheng was intercepted in Beijing on 7 March 2008 whilst petitioning for fair compensation. Wang, a 76-year-old ex soldier from Mudanjiang City, was detained in a black jail with 20 other petitioners at Mudanjiang City Assistance Station Children’s Relief Centre. On 14 March, Wang’s daughter met the same fate when she went to Beijing to petition about her father’s detention.  It is unclear whether Wang and his daughter have been released.

Wang Xinglai, a farmer from Beian City, was intercepted by Beian officials while petitioning in Beijing on 18 November 2007. Wang was forcibly returned to Beian, where he was illegally detained for over a month before being sent for two years of RTL. Wang started petitioning after the Beian City government broke a 25-year land lease signed in 1997. 

Yang Guihua, a petitioner, was sent to RTL for a year after she was intercepted on 5 November 2007 in front of the United Nations Development Programme offices in Beijing. Yang had been petitioning because the local court in Qiqihaer had delayed processing her case concerning money disputes.

Village representatives Yu Changwu and Wang Guilin were detained in December 2007 by the Fujin City Public Security Bureau in Jiamusi City. They were sent for, respectively, two and one-and-a-half years of RTL. Days prior to their detention, 40,000 villagers from 72 Fujin villages released a public notice declaring their right to 100,000 hectares of land in their villages, which the villagers claimed had been forcibly seized without adequate compensation by local officials.

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