BEIJING – On January 28, Chinese New Year's eve, approximately five to six hundred people in Beijing were arrested because they went to the residences of Premier Wen Jiabao, and President Hu Jintao, and also some NGO offices in Beijing, such as the UN Refugee Agency. Many of the arrestees were left standing in the open yard of the police station, including at least one mother with a two-year-old-child, despite the minus five degree Celsius (23 F) cold.
On the morning of the 28th, people wishing to file appeals with the central government started to gather around Zhongnanhai Xinhua Gate and NGO offices in Beijing. They were arrested immediately by police and plainclothes personal, and sent to Majialou Appellant Control Center, where they were photographed by police and security personnel. People who agreed to be photographed were given a bun and a package of salted pickles to eat. All the appellants were ejected form the Control Center at 4:00 pm.
Some of the appellants went to residences of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao,hoping that in honor of the New Year's holiday they might receive some better responses to their appeals. At the residences there were around six to seven police vehicles and about 30 police and plainclothes personnel. The appellants were arrested without a chance to explain; many were beaten, including one disabled person from Liaoning province, who refused to get into a police vehicle. Some people were even arrested by plainclothes policemen just because they passed by Premier Wen's residence on that day. Around 200 persons appealing were arrested and locked in the open yard of Dongjiao Minxiang Police Station close to Dongdan Park.
Since the demolishing of the appeal village, where appellants could rent basic accommodations for three to four yuan (approximately half a US dollar,) many appellants have to stay on the street because they cannot afford hotel costs. On the night of January 19, Beijing police attacked people wandering around residential areas near the People's Supreme Court; about 100 people were arrested. Rights activists inquired from many sources but could not find their whereabouts, some appellants suspect that the arrestees could be sent to their local labour camps.
This is the first year that Beijing residents have been allowed to set off firecrackers after a 13-year ban. The New Year spirit is everywhere; the reporter could even hear firecrackers exploding over the phone while interviewing the appellants. For the beleaguered appellants however, the New Year's festivities are foreign and far away.
One appellant from Shandong province, Qian Lili, who came to Beijing to appeal about the local authorities covering up the murder of her son, told the journalist, “The new year is coming; where should we stay to wait for the New Year? Even the vegetable stall owners have gone home to celebrate the New Year, so we cannot even pick up waste vegetable leaves. There is no place to beg for food. We were even arrested because we wanted to send our greetings to Premier Wen. Many of us have not eaten anything today…”
“It is a miserable place! There is no law? I appealed to the Public Security Bureau and they are not interested in my problem, they even hit me. I appealed to the State Council and they said the local government has already reviewed my case twice and unde the new regulations they do not have to look into it. What kind of regulation is it? Is that a regulation for shielding a murderer?”
In Beijing some appelants distributed flyers saying, “If there was no Communist Party, We wouldn't need to appeal here.”