On July 25, 2007, an appellant set himself on fire at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Appeals Office in Beijing. He is now in critical condition.
According to www.64tianwang.com, the first human-rights website in mainland China, on the afternoon on July 25, an appellant set himself on fire at the General Appeal Office of the National People's Congress in Beijing. Radio Free Asia (RFA) learned that the injured man is in his forties or fifties. He suffered massive burns and was rushed away in an ambulance. There were over 200 witnesses.
Mr. Li was one of witnesses. He told RFA, “When it happened, we just saw him come out of the restroom on fire. He was saying, 'I have been wronged so grievously, now I die so tragically, I'd be better off dead.' After he said those words, he let out a blood-curdling scream. Apparently he had poured gasoline on himself inside the restroom near the entrance. He set himself on fire and then ran out. There were 200 to 300 people there at the time. Some of them tried to put out the fire with their clothes. Finally, the security officers came with fire extinguishers. He was burning for several minutes, all of his clothes were burned, and his body was burned extensively. The whole incident lasted about 40 minutes.” He was rushed from the scene by paramedics from the 120 Emergency Center.
Another Beijing appellant, Ms. Li who arrived after the incident, said, “There were burn marks and singed clothes stuck to the ground. Many people felt little hope for the man's survival. They literally saw a layer of his skin being burnt off. No body could touch the old man any more. He was carried away on a stretcher. He might survive if he is sent to the hospital directly, but it's hard to say if he will be taken somewhere else. Who knows where they would send him?”
A reporter phoned the 120 Emergency Center of Beijing. The staff claimed that they had not received any call for help from the appeal office and forwarded them to the 999 Emergency Network. The 999 staff said they could only look up information if given the name of the patient.
At the moment, RFA does not have any background information about the injured man or updates on the situation. Besides the witnesses' account of him yelling he'd be better off dead, the motive for his self-immolation is still unknown.
For many years, countless appellants have come to Beijing to make appeals from across the country. However they could only sometimes get a receipt, and they often got beaten at the state level appeals departments. There are also local officials intercepting appellants from their areas.
Ms. Li told RFA, “Now we do not even know if the person doing registrations is staff from the National People's Congress or an local officers intercepting appellants. Many people who went there said they waited in vain, as people from their local areas would not really be able to solve the problem. I have seen such people many times. The local government of Shenyang had people coming to the Appellant Office, they talk to appellants. I went three times in succession but could not talk to any receptionist. I was beaten the first two times. There were many people there as soon as the office opened. I do not know why the security officers needed to be angry and beat people with fists. It makes no sense for the government to set up this public appeals department only to beat the people who use it. There is no use to making any appeal. Where can the beaten appellants seek justice?”
Many appellants have vowed to seek justice, but have no means. Besides having no home to return to, even if they go back to their hometown, what awaits them is often revenge from local officials. Various difficulties combined with being unable to obtain justice over a long period of time have driven many to suicide. Many of these incidents have happened during recent years in Beijing. They took place at state level appeals offices, the Supreme Court, and even Tiananmen Square. Besides self-immolation, they sometimes drank pesticide.
During the Session of the National People's Congress and the Session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference earlier this year, three appellants from Nongken, Heilongjiang Province attempted to commit suicide by drinking pesticide at the Appeals Office of the National People's Congress. They had not been sent to the hospital to be treated. Instead, they were taken back to their hometown and detained.