Because her house in Inner Mongolia was demolished by the authorities, Huang Zhen traveled to Beijing to petition which is legal under Chinese law. Zhen planned to petition at the special "protest areas" set up by the authorities for those who wish to protest during the Olympics.
However, Zhen was arrested while filling out a petition form at the entrance of the Petition Department in Beijing. She said that she was sent back to Inner Mongolia and held in an abandoned primary school in the village of Hulun Buir Haq along with other petitioners.
Zhen said while held at the school she was given very little to eat and the police tried to coerce her into dropping her plans to petition.
"They locked me there and wanted me to sign a guarantee that I will not petition in the future. If I did not sign it they said they would starve me. They only provided two meals every day with a steamed bun for every meal without any vegetables."
Zhen says she refused to sign the guarantee because if she did she would never again be able to petition and fight the injustice of losing her home.
She said her friend was forced to sign an agreement not to petition but later reneged and went to petition anyway. Public Security officials arrested him and he was sentenced to one and a half years in a reeducation-through-labor camp.
When this reporter called the Detention Department to verify whether petitioners were being held, a cadre called Wang Bo said "I cannot answer that" and hung up.
Zhen said that the Detention Department is currently being looked after by four police officers from the reeducation-through-labor system.
There were originally about 20 petitioners being held in the abandoned school, said Zhen. However, after they signed the guarantee not to petition they were released. Only two refused to sign. A few more petitioners were brought in on August 20.
Zhen believes they will be held there until the end of the Olympics on August 24. When asked what she thinks of China hosting the Olympics, Zhen said the petitioners have no interest the Olympics because their houses were demolished and now they have nothing.
"We don’t even have anything to eat, how can we be concerned about the Olympics?"
Huang Zhen is not Zhen's real name. She asked that a pseudonym be used out of fear that the authorities would discover that she spoke to the media.