A Glimmer of Hope for Chinese Petitioners

April 23, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Petitioners Ms. Chen Bixiang
Petitioners Ms. Chen Bixiang (left) and Ms. Yu Hong (right) during their detention at a Beijing black jail in Jan. 2012. Ms. Chen, in her seventies, was beaten by guards. (Courtesy of a source in China).

China’s huge internal stability maintenance budget reflects the swelling army of Chinese citizens on a constant stream of pilgrimage to Beijing to seek justice from state authorities. They are China’s petitioners, and they have dark stories to tell about injustice suffered at the hands of local officials. Petitioning is their legal right, but instead of protecting them, the country’s domestic security apparatus has mistreated them with impunity. Now the pendulum may swing the other way.

Hu Jun, the director of Human Rights Campaign in China, has 17 years of experience with petitioning. He told New Epoch Weekly that interception of petitioners is normally conducted by the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC)–the Chinese communist regime’s powerful domestic security apparatus–with the help from local neighborhood committees and police departments. Some provinces’ liaison offices in Beijing hire security guards from private companies to intercept petitioners and send them to black jails, with domestic security police handling the more serious cases, he said.

Black Jails

The story of Ms. Yu Hong, a resident of Hunan Province, illustrates how the PLAC’s “stability maintenance” network deals with petitioners.

57-year-old Yu went to Beijing on Dec. 4, 2011, trying to lodge an investigation into the mysterious deaths of her first husband and son, Mr. Tang, Yu’s second husband, told The Epoch Times in a telephone interview.

Yu’s first husband and son used to work for a local water and power company operated by the county government. Both died at work under mysterious circumstances in 1999 and 2005, respectively. Local authorities forced Yu to sign documents, stating that they had committed suicide and closed both cases. Yu has never received any death benefits or compensation for their death. She has gone to Beijing to petition for more than a dozen times over the past years.

On Dec. 4, 2011, during her last effort to appeal, Yu was detained in a black jail operated by Chenzhou City’s liaison office in Beijing. Although it was winter in Beijing, the black jail was not heated and Yu almost became ill. After more than a month of detention, a human rights advocate from Liaoning, by the name Zhao Zhenjia, heard about Yu’s detention. Accompanied by many petitioners as well as journalists from two newspapers, Zhao was able to secure Yu’s release, and the release of two other petitioners, Chen Bixiang, a woman in her seventies, and Gong Jiangbao, a man in his eighties.

After a few days of rest, undaunted, the trio went out anew to appeal their cases at the State Bureau of Letters and Calls. This time, Beijing police sent them to Jiujingzhuang, a notorious black jail used to detain petitioners who visit Beijing. Later, they were taken to another black jail operated by the Chenzhou City’s liaison office in Beijing, where Ms. Chen and Mr. Gong were beaten by guards on Jan. 23, 2012.

According to Tang, the guards also tried to beat Yu, but she put a razor blade between her teeth, threatening to bite on it and presumably kill herself, so the guards left her alone, most likely fearing messy consequences.

Later, the three veteran petitioners were taken back to Chenzhou City, Hunan Province where Yu was detained in a local public security office for the next 10 days.

Police also detained Zhao Zhenjia, the human rights advocate who gained their release of the three elderly petitioners.

Maintaining ‘Stability’

Local government officials try their best to keep petitioners from going to Beijing and complaining about them. So for years, local officials have worked out a system of paying private security companies in Beijing for returning petitioners to their hometowns.

The reason for the establishment of black jails in Beijing, operated by liaison offices of different local governments, was basically for cost saving reasons. Rather than paying private security guards for returning one petitioner at a time, it is more economical to establish black jails in Beijing to temporarily detain petitioners and have them transported back home in groups.

During certain politically “sensitive” times the entire security apparatus is on high alert to hold back the flood of petitioners that is descending on Beijing, ruining the regime’s facade of a “harmonious” society.

While the two parliamentary meetings convened earlier this year, petitioners from all over China were monitored, detained, or imprisoned.

Wu Tianli, a petitioner who is a resident of Beijing’s Fengtai District, said she was monitored by police 24 hours a day on the eve of the two meetings. Her case has gone unresolved for 10 years, she said.

Domestic Security Budget

A source in Beijing with insider information told New Epoch Weekly that during the two meetings the PLAC gave funding to local governments to “maintain stability.” Some local governments just gave money to petitioners who promised not to go to Beijing during the two meetings. But most of the local governments usually make deals with petitioners; they share the money with petitioners and keep some of it for themselves. Some local governments won’t share the money, they just detained petitioners or forced them to go on a trip, the source said.

The PLAC is a huge apparatus, and just the control of petitioners alone requires a large resources.

Hu Jun, the director of Human Rights Campaign in China, said the State Bureau of Letters and Calls usually notifies a local government’s liaison office in Beijing to repatriate a petitioner to his or her native hometown. Afterwards, local authorities have to submit a report documenting how the case was handled, including problem solving, monitoring, and controlling of the petitioner. The report is then distributed to a huge network of different departments, including the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the PLAC, the Central Organization Department, Ministry of Public Security, and the State Bureau for Letters and Calls.

A secret investigation document compiled by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, leaked out during the two parliamentary meetings, shows that the number of petitioners nationwide has been soaring. The document, posted on the U.S.-based Chinese dissident website Boxun, said that between January and June 2011 the number of documented petitioners reached 70.78 million, with the total number for 2011 estimated at around 150 million; and of these, around 95 percent have legitimate or reasonable grounds for petitioning.

According to a document compiled by a Chinese lawyer, which illustrates the process flow chart for handling petitioners, the Chinese regime has allocated a huge amount of resources and established a refined and clear mechanism dedicated to handling petitioners, in particular ways of intercepting them in Beijing and sending them back to their hometowns.

The PLAC also oppresses human rights attorneys and dissidents, and has created a special extralegal agency known as the 610 Office for the persecution of Falun Gong. The PLAC’s annual stability maintenance budget is therefore ever increasing.

A budget report released during the two meetings indicated that the stability maintenance budget will surpass 700 billion yuan (USD$100 billion) this year, 10 percent more than last year, and exceeding military spending.

Security Chief Under Investigation

A June 2011 in-depth report, by Caijing.com, an intrepid investigative business magazine, said that the PLAC is supposedly China’s stability maintenance system, with control over Public Security, the courts, the Procuratorate, and the Letters and Calls Offices. However, this powerful and highly efficient machine runs against the rule of law, therefore the so-called stability maintenance system has created instability.

Hu Jun concurs with that opinion. He said that from the perspective of petitioners, the PLAC is an illegal organization, which was not established by the Chinese Constitution.

“The PLAC is a malignant tumor resulting from the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorial rule,” Hu said. “By oppressing the people it has become a powerful organ that is now threatening the highest leadership of the Communist Party, including Chairman Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.”

Zhou Yongkang, the head of the PLAC and a member of China’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee, is said to be under internal investigation following the ouster of his ally Bo Xilai. Zhou and Bo are believed to have conspired against leader Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao for several and also plotted to disrupt Xi Jinping’s transition as CCP leader this fall.

With this sudden new development, good news could be on the horizon for the tens of millions of petitioners and other victims of the PLAC’s arbitrary abuse of power.

Read the original Chinese article.