Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trying to Stay Sane

When Chinese people feel wronged by their local government, some make the trek to Beijing and hope the central authorities will listen to them.

These petitioners carry all their documents and meagre savings, hoping for justice in the capital.

But many don't even make it to their destination.

Some are stopped by local authorities from getting on buses and trains; or they are met at the Beijing rail or bus station by the same group of shady characters and taken back home.

The others that do somehow make it to Beijing are either thrown in "black jails", low-budget hotels where provincial governments rent out the rooms to forcibly keep these people from seeing higher authorities.

Or they are deemed mentally insane and thrown into mental institutions.

Chinese domestic media is starting to cover this, with a story about some petitioners from Xintai, Shandong province.

Sun Fawu, 57, is a retired worker who was abducted by the township's petitioner officials and sent to the Xintai mental hospital for 20 days where he was forced to take oral drugs and injections and locked in a room with bars and no windows.

"My head was heavy like a hammer and my legs were weak," Sun told The Beijing News.

He said when he yelled to a doctor, telling him he was a petitioner and not mentally ill, he was told: "I don't care if you are mentally ill or not. Your township government sent you so I will treat you like a mentally ill patient."

He said only when he signed a document declaring he was mentally ill and promised not to petition again was he released.

Another petitioner Shi Hengsheng is an 84-year-old former civil servant who was detained in a mental hospital in June 2006 after he was brought back from Beijing over a property dispute.

He claimed there were 18 other petitioners in the mental hospital in a two-year period and even the doctor confirmed the names Shi had.

Shi added petitioners' families didn't even know they were being detained in a mental hospital.

Wu Yuzhu, president of Xintai Mental Hospital told the newspaper that many patients at the hospital were petitioners, and their fees were paid by township governments. He said some patients did not appear mentally ill, but "we could not say anything as most times the township officials bring with them a mental state evaluation and are accompanied by police officers."

The reasons for such elaborate ways of shutting up people?

There are more and more disputes with the authorities, and as people become more aware of their rights, they want to get justice.

But the central government is getting tired of looking at all these petitions, and have decided to evaluate officials and provinces based on the number of petitions that arrive in Beijing.

That explains why so many petitioners are stopped from entering the capital.

It also shows the governments, at the various levels, not wishing to deal at all with these people, some of whom probably have a solid case against them; the challenge would probably show the authorities would lose especially when it came to unfair land claims or people being cheated out of the money they deserved for the land they gave up.

But it also reveals the government is not treating its citizens fairly according to the rule of law.

And that is an injustice in itself.

1 comment:

ks said...

human rights and especially the right to vent injustices of the common poeple are still lacking . this sows the seeds of discontent. hence the civil unrest in many remote areas. it is high time the leaders should look hard into it.