CHINA—On September 26, 32 farmers representing refugees from a reservoir project in Chibi, Hubei Province, held banners and kneeled on Tiananmen Square for 10 minutes. They were protesting the ongoing embezzlement of their land compensation over the last 30 years by the local authorities.
Because they did not receive their just compensation, these farmers suffered severely, being forced to relocate without any funds. Not only did their standards of living decrease, they also lost social status.
They have appealed in many other ways previously but always ended up being arrested.
On October 6, June 4th Tiangwang, a mainland rights advocacy website, published news that Zhou Zhirong, who organized the “Kneeling Appeal on Tiananmen Square,” had been arrested by the local police and has not been heard of since. The police also issued an arrest warrant for another organizer, Hong Yunzhou, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
The authority claims that these two people instigated the farmers to kneel at Tiananmen Square without just cause. But rights advocates have replied that the real reason behind the arrests is that the “Kneeling Appeal” attracted some publicity and thus embarrassed the offending government agencies.
During a phone interview with Radio Free Asia, Local CCP Chief Jin Yan told a reporter that Zhou and Hong should be arrested because they instigated innocent farmers to kneel on Tiananmen Square. Jin is the person responsible for the farmer's relocation in the Chibi area.
Jin claimed that after being detained for some time those farmers who went to appeal admitted that they had been deceived by Zhou and Hong. Although the reporter pointed out to Jin that the farmers who held the banners would have known what the banners said, Jin still insisted the appeal was manipulated by Zhou and Hong, and they staged the appeal to vent their hatred of Chinese society.
According to U.N. special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, the “practice of torture, though on the decline—particularly in urban areas—remains widespread in China.” Nowak described the tortures widely used in mainland China as “a systematic form of inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The host of June 4th Tiangwang website, Huang Qi, said that the farmers' “Kneeling Appeal” embarrassed the Chibi authorities.
Huang said, “Even inside the ruling system of the Chinese communist regime, the appeal triggered some attention. International media also reported on the event. It also has had a great impact in the areas around Chibe City. Immediately after the incident, Beijing authorities ordered the local Chibe government to escort the farmers back to Chibe. The local Chibe government was extremely embarrassed.”