Tens of thousands of petitioners from across China took to Beijing’s streets on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, to protest. 12 of those thousands were not content with protesting: They attempted to commit suicide together.
Around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, 12 individuals whose homes in Wuhan had been demolished laid banners on the ground with their grievances written on them, and then drank pesticide together at Qianmen, located at the southern edge of Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing.
The 12 passed out after taking the pesticide and lay on the ground together in a row at the base of a low wall. Later, police sent them to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment.
The petitioners are three females and nine males from Xinchun Village, Jiangan District of Wuhan City, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province.
Their story is a common one in China today. After losing their homes with little compensation, they appealed to officials for relief. Instead of receiving compensation that would allow them to rebuild their lives, the petitioners say they were treated violently and placed in labor camps and black jails.
Pictures of the petitioners lying on the ground unconscious taken by passersby soon appeared on China’s twitter-like Sina Weibo , but were deleted during the day due by internet censors.
Epoch Times reached one of the 12 petitioners, Mei Cuiying, by phone. “We were so desperate at home. So we came to Beijing to commit suicide in Beijing on Human Rights Day.” Mei said, “After drinking the pesticide, I threw up and felt the world spinning, and then I lost consciousness. I woke up after having my stomach pumped in the hospital. I’m still taking an intravenous drip now.”
Mei told Epoch Times that 12 of them were sent to different hospitals near Tiananmen Square. “I’m in the same hospital with Wang Yuping [one of the 12 petitioners], but I’m not allowed to visit him. I don’t know what’s going on with other people.” Mei said.
Each petitioner drank about 50 milliliters (1.7 ounces) of pesticide, according to a petitioner surnamed Wang.
Other Possible Suicides
Another eight petitioners from Wuhan came to Beijing on Dec. 10 with suicide on their minds. These were from Lujia Village of Jiangan District and had also seen their homes demolished..
“Local government doesn’t solve our demolition problems,” a female petitioner from Lujia Village who prefers to remain anonymous told Epoch Times over the phone. “We eight people will go to Tiananmen Square to drink pesticide because our problems can’t be solved even if we go back. Forget it! We’ll just commit suicide. We lost our home anyway.”
“Every time when we visited the district government and the provincial government to report our issues, none of the departments would like to speak up for us,” she said. “Every time when we petitioned, we were beaten by them, and placed in black jails. We couldn’t survive there, but can only come to Beijing and use such an extreme method.”
The officials in Wuhan were warned in November that the forced demolitions there were driving residents to suicide. A group of more than 30 petitioners gathered outside the Appeals Office in Wuhan on Nov. 20 and presented a letter stating that, after seeking compensation from officials for three years, they were considering group suicide in Beijing.
The letter states: “We now have no way out and cannot take it any more, both physically and mentally. We have lost hope, and the reality has forced us to commit suicide in Beijing in order to release us from this suffering.”
According to the petitioners, the local government in the Jiangan District started housing demolition in October 2010 in preparation for urban redevelopment.
The local officials treated migrant workers who had settled in Wuhan and bought homes differently than local residents.
Local villagers were given 3456 yuan ($569) per square meter in compensation, while migrant villagers could only get 400 yuan ($66) per square meter. Whoever didn’t sign the demolition agreement saw their houses forcibly demolished anyway.
Petitioner Cai Huiqin, a migrant villager in Jiangan District, told Epoch Times in an earlier report that the migrant villagers there bought the land from village committees with their hard-earned money. They built their own houses and had lived there for more than 10 years.
Now their houses have been demolished without any compensation or assistance for resettlement, and the migrant villagers’ benefits and rights have been denied, Cai said.
The health condition of the petitioners who drank pesticide is unclear, and Chinese media has been quiet on the incident.
With reporting by Gu Qinger and the Associated Press.