Beijing Authorities Used GPS to Search for Petitioners During Olympics

August 24, 2008 9:47 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:52 pm
Agitated Chinese petitioners show documents during a gathering outside a courthouse, at the time that human rights activist Hu Jia was in attendance inside the court, in Beijing. (Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty Image)
Agitated Chinese petitioners show documents during a gathering outside a courthouse, at the time that human rights activist Hu Jia was in attendance inside the court, in Beijing. (Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty Image)

'They treat us like we are the enemy'

Chinese petitioners, who have been under increased suppression since the start of the Beijing Olympics, predict that the situation will only get worse after the Games.

During the Olympics 22 petitioners were illegally detained in China’s Liaoning province. The petitioners were being held in the basement of the Hunbei Ecological Hotel in the Tiaxi district, said petitioner Li Sufen.
Ms. Li, who lives in Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning, has petitioned the government for 18 years. Despite having promised her local government not to petition or cause trouble during the Olympics, she was still arrested at her home on the eve of the opening ceremony.

According to Ms. Li, detained petitioners are under 24-hour surveillance by public security officers, special police, security guards and staff from the Bureau of Justice. She said some of the petitioners are on hunger strike, some are trying to get help from the outside and some have slit their wrists to commit suicide in order to escape their suffering.

Prior to the start of the Games four other Chinese nationals who sought to petition the government were tracked down by authorities using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in Beijing on July 27. Wang Shengfang and Zhao Laidi from Shanghai and Zhu Yumei from Jiangsu were arrested. The fourth petitioner, Zhou A’gen, narrowly escaped arrest as he was out at the time.

Mr. Zhou said authorities from the Beijing Public Security Bureau tracked the cell phone of Zhu Yumei, a female petitioner whose legs are disabled.

“Three policemen broke into the room and beat her. Some of our petitioners committed suicide, because they lost their hopes. Actually, we are more miserable than the Jews during World War Two. They treat us like we are the enemy.”

Ms. Tang Xiuyun, a petitioner from North-eastern China, said the authorities in Beijing have recently been searching for petitioners and have deployed guards at every petition office. Petitioners have to constantly hide or dare not go out at all, she said, and extra officers have been brought into Beijing from different regions.

“Once seeing a petitioner, [the authorities] will arrest the person and send them back to where he or she is from. The petitioner will be put into custody, detained, or sent to prison. Some will be sentenced or threatened,” said Ms. Tang.

In response to this new round of government suppression in Beijing, China Transitional Government spokesperson Tang Boqiao called on the petitioners to turn away from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and support the democracy movement.

“Under the ruling of [the Chinese] dictatorship, [the petitioners’] sufferings from the suppression and injustice of their cases are all due to the current political system. I rather encourage them to support the democracy movement, support the Transitional Government, and end the CCP regime. If we have the say, then they can get compensation.”

Anhui petitioner Wang Shixiang also applied to be able to demonstrate. However, authorities tracked his cell phone signal with the aid of GPS and on August 20, just one day before the planned protest, the police located him. They threw him into the police car and drove him back to Anhui where he has been monitored closely by police ever since.

“I was tracked by the Beijing Public Security Bureau and the local government of Anhui. They tracked my mobile phone signals just like what they do with wanted criminals. They just don’t want me to demonstrate,” Mr Wang said.

“The Beijing public security officer said, ‘Don’t you want human rights? [We are] just waiting for you people who want human rights, those who want to demonstrate and protest on the street, [we will] have actions on that.’”

The police told Mr. Wang that after the Olympics are over they will "start to punish people." He called on the international society to take a stand and speak out about the petitioners' situation.

On the day of Mr. Wang’s arrest, Guangxi petitioner Huang Liuhong took her children and younger sister to Beijing where she had applied by mail to the Beijing Public Security Bureau for a demonstration.

Ms Huang said she had no other choice. “For the last year, I have trusted the Party, trusted the Central Government, I have came to Beijing countless times. Now I have completely lost my hope, as every time I went back, not only had my issue never been resolved, but I was illegally detained by them and got beaten up.”

Ms Huang also said it would probably be her last time going to Beijing because local authorities threatened her and said that after the Olympics she would be punished.