07/19/2006, 00.00
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Christian activists visit "petitioners' village" in Beijing

Members of the Protestant Fangzhou Church distributed food to the residents of the "village", home to people who presented a petition to the central government and are waiting for a reply.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Members of the Protestant Fangzhou [Ark] Church recently visited the "petitioners' village" near the southern train station of Beijing to offer food and support. The groups distributed 150 kilos of food aid and encouraged the residents – who number about 100 – to "continue in their struggle for human rights and against corruption".

The "petitioners' village" emerged from the spontaneous coming together of people who traveled alone to the capital from all over China to submit their petitions or complaints to the central government offices. Given endless delays of bureaucratic red tape and a general lack of funds, they set up in this area south of the city and created a sort of village.

The petitioners are often harassed by police, by Beijing administrative staff, and by thugs. In early 2006, the government demolished all the houses in the "village" to make way for necessary buildings for the Olympic Games. The residents built temporary sheds and tents at the same location. They live in very bad sanitary conditions and some of them have died on the street.

During the visit of the Fangzhou members on 14 July, the villager leaders read out a list of abuses perpetrated by the authorities and expressed the hope that "sooner or later the government will correct these mistakes".

The Ark Church – its members include lawyers and human rights activists famous across China, like Gao Zhisheng, Fan Yafeng, Li Baiguang, Wang Guangze, Yu Jie and Bei Cun – also raised funds during a prayer meeting for the release of Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist arrested for campaigning against forced abortions by the government of Shandong province.

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