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Police and Thugs Suppress Fujian Peasant Protest

August 25, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received a copy of an open letter by a group of peasants in Fujian appealing for China’s central government to intervene on a case in which police brought in hired thugs to suppress a village protest.

The open letter by peasants from Wanli Village in Cangshan Town, Fuzhou City, Fujian Province says that on the morning of August 1, a large group of law enforcement officers accompanied by a number of individuals recently released from Reeeducation Through Labor (RTL) and Reform Through Labor (laogai) camps suddenly arrived at a factory where villagers were staging a sit-in. After climbing over the factory gate, the police officers and civilians attacked the villagers, resulting in the injury of at lease 15 people, four of them seriously. According to the open letter, most of the villagers attacked were women, and the conditions of those injured have deteriorated because they are too poor to afford the necessary medical treatment.

The injured include a 50-year old man, Jiang Bibo, who suffered a concussion and internal bleeding; a 54-year old woman, Huang Yaying, who suffered a compound fracture to her right hand; and a 56-year old woman, Pan Lanfang, who is covered with cuts and bruises after being beaten by seven or eight men under the direction of Zheng Long, the head of the local Public Security dispatch station.

The open letter reports that the attackers included more than 100 police officers under the direction of Cangshan’s various law enforcement bureaus, more than a dozen police officers led by Zheng Long, head of the Duihu Public Security dispatch station, and 14 people recently released from RTL or laogai camps under the leadership of Zhao Zhenguang, a man released this past November from his third prison sentence. Official participants included the head of Cangshan Town, Hou Zhihua; the head of Cangshan’s uniformed officers’ squad, Liang Qidi; the chairman of the People’s Congress of Cangshan Town, Lin Qixiang; and the former Village Party Secretary, Li Zhijian.

According to HRIC’s sources, the conflict between officials and villagers arose over possession of the factory where the villagers staged their sit-in. The villagers had pooled their personal resources to build the 5,100 square meter factory, which they then rented to a Taiwanese businessman for income. However, the Cangshan government decided to take possession of the factory for official use without consulting the villagers, and without offering them any compensation. The villagers, angry over this abuse of their rights, staged a sit-in at the factory and insisted that the government clarify the terms of its use of the factory. It is at that point that officials sent in the police and others against the villagers.

After the August 1 incident, more than 60 villagers who had been attacked went twice to the Fujian Province Public Security Bureau to petition for intervention into the case. They also petitioned Fujian Province’s Women’s Association and Letters and Visits Office. Although the provincial PSB director, Chen Youcheng, ordered the Cangshan PSB branch to seriously investigate the matter, no discernable action has been taken to date.

The open letter calls on the central government and the Fujian Provincial government to establish an investigation committee to look into the case and discipline the officials responsible, and to ensure that injured villagers are compensated for their medical treatment and other damages.

Sources told HRIC that this is only the latest of a number of oppressive actions taken against the peasants of Wanli Village, who have been engaging in extended protests over infringement of their rights in recent official land confiscation and clearance operations. In March 2003, police detained three villagers attempting to deliver a petition to higher authorities. Two of the villagers were held for more than a month. In April of this year, another two villagers were detained on trumped-up charges until they agreed to their homes being cleared. On May 6, a total of more than 300 police officers and unidentified civilians surrounded Manli Village and beat up villagers regardless of sex or age. One woman committed suicide on a busy Fuzhou thoroughfare to protest. The recent open letter is a last resort taken by the villagers to bring attention to their plight.

“These allegations of the use of hired thugs to suppress popular protests should raise serious concern,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “The Chinese government should carefully investigate the allegations made in the open letter from the residents of Wanli Village and carry out whatever measures are necessary to address the acts of injustice that are occurring there.”