Local petitioners in China’s megacity of Chongqing were arrested and assaulted by officials when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the city to survey the destruction from recent flooding, some petitioners said.
Petitioners in China turn to regional governments or authorities in Beijing to express their grievances, in hopes of being granted justice.
The flooding in Chongqing was sparked by heavy rain that swelled the Yangtze River and several of its tributaries. The megacity, which sits southeast of China’s Sichuan Province, is located at the confluence of the Yangtze and its tributary, the Jialing River.
Li arrived in Chongqing on Aug. 20 to observe local relief efforts. According to Chinese state-run media People’s Daily, Li visited Shuangba Village, which is located near the Fu River, another tributary of the Yangtze.
More than 8,000 residents in the village were affected by the floods, and much of the local farmland was inundated. Li also spoke with displaced villagers, according to media reports.
Two residents living in Chongqing, who became petitioners fighting for justice over the local government’s forced demolition of their homes, spoke to The Epoch Times about mistreatment by local officials because Li visiting the area.
Tang Yunshu said she was taken away by about 10 local government officials at a train station in the Liangjiang New Area in Chongqing on Aug. 20. Tang, who is from the city’s Fengdu County, said one of the officials was from a local security bureau and another was from a local police station.
Tang said she screamed for help while she was being dragged on the floor before a bystander called the police. She was taken to a nearby police station, where she was held for hours, until about a dozen officials from the Fengdu security bureau came to return her to the county.
“They dragged me into a police car and they [officials from Fengdu County] punched and kicked me,” Tang said.
Tang told The Epoch Times that she had been petitioning for more than 20 years because her three homes were forcibly demolished by the local government; she says her parents and husband died in connection with the demolition.
After her release, Tang realized that officials had taken her into custody because Li was visiting the area.
“I saw on the internet many local petitioners were placed under house arrest because of Li’s visit,” Tang said.
Also on Aug. 20, petitioner Cai Bangying said local street officials took her to a villa, where she was held against her will and beaten. She recalled an official telling her that if he beat her to death, the local government would shield him from any punishment.
The next day, Cai said she called the police. Officers showed up at the villa but didn’t release her.
Officials eventually released her late on Aug. 21, and dropped her off at a local bus stop. She said she then called an ambulance and was taken to a local hospital to be treated for a fractured leg.
Cai said she called the local police demanding that they pay her medical bill. Officers came to the hospital where she was treated, talked to the hospital’s head, and then left without paying her bill, she said.
Also on Aug. 20, local activist Zhao Anxiu told The Epoch Times that 10 to 20 officers from her local police station and security bureau showed up at her home in Dadukou district in Chongqing, seeking to arrest four petitioners who were visiting her at the time.
“Their cellphones could have been monitored, so the police officers knew to come to my home and arrest them,” Zhao said, adding that one of the four petitioners was beaten.
“Later, I knew that they were taken in because of Premier Li. It was absolutely terrifying.” she said.
Municipal authorities in Chongqing raised the flood alert warning in the city of about 31 million people to the highest level on Aug. 18, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands. At least 23,700 local shops were flooded, 4,095 houses damaged, and about 8,636 hectares (about 21,300 acres) of local farmland were affected by the floods, according to the Chongqing government website.
Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported late on Aug. 22 that floodwaters in Chongqing were receding, and the natural gas supply had resumed for some households.
Two local Chongqing residents shared with the Chinese-language Epoch Times what they saw.
Ms. Yang said the water level of the Jialing rose quickly, inundating many nearby houses, while many of the roads leading to Ciqikou town, on the west bank of the river, weren’t accessible.
Another resident, a 39-year-old man surnamed Huang, said he’d never seen such widespread flooding in Chongqing. He pointed out that it was difficult to know the true scale of the destruction, even for him living in the city.
Huang said the local government tried to prevent any “mass incidents,” so street officials dealt directly with flood victims. Thus, only victims and their family members knew how people were being sheltered or financially compensated by the government for the flooding.
In China, mass incidents often refer to planned or impromptu gatherings of ordinary citizens expressing dissatisfaction with authorities. Local officials are typically tasked to squash such displays of dissent.
Huang added that several of his Chinese social media accounts were blocked after he sent out some information about the flooding.