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Laid-off Sichuan Workers Beaten and Detained Following Petition Attempt

September 21, 2006

Amidst press reports of a crackdown against petitioners in Beijing in the run-up to China’s October 1 National Day celebrations, Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned of the beating and detention of petitioning unemployed workers in Suining City, Sichuan Province.

Sources in China told HRIC that on the morning of September 20, more than 40 workers laid off from Suining’s Suizhou Guesthouse went to the office of the Suining Municipal Party committee to deliver a petition. When no officials came out to accept the petition, the workers continued to wait outside the office building.

Sources say that a little after 4:00 p.m., the deputy director of the Suining Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB), Wang Yanwen, and the director of the city’s Letters and Petitions Office, Li Nianguang, arrived with several dozen uniformed and plain-clothes police officers and attempted to forcibly remove the petitioning workers. Police officers reportedly pushed two female workers, Zhang Xiaohua and Liu Xiaohong, to the ground, and Zhang was badly beaten, suffering serious head injuries and nausea as a result. Sources say both women were subsequently taken to the local hospital, where Zhang was diagnosed with a cerebral concussion. The Party Committee head reportedly instructed the hospital not to treat the women, but they were admitted nevertheless.

Sources say that police forcibly detained two other female petitioners, Wang Jun and Xu Haiyan, as they were returning home after the petitioning attempt. In addition, a male worker, Huang Zhuyu, was detained by local police after he returned home that evening. According the HRIC’s latest information, police are on the lookout for a number of other petitioners, who have not returned home for fear of being detained or harassed.

According to HRIC’s sources, the workers had been laid off after the Suizhou Guesthouse went bankrupt and its assets were sold undervalued to the benefit of a single bidder.Further, several audits had reportedly found evidence of corruption by the general manager of the guesthouse, Xie Zhicheng, who is now the deputy secretary general of the Suining Municipal Government.

After most of the guesthouse’s workers were laid off, they repeatedly petitioned the municipal government and Party committee requesting assistance in obtaining unemployment benefits, but officials reportedly used stalling tactics, leaving the workers with no option but to continue petitioning.

HRIC deplores the brutal treatment of these laid-off workers, who were only exercising their lawful right to petition following the failure of local authorities to provide unemployment benefits. This incident is especially troubling in light of recent reports of a large-scale round-up of hundreds of petitioners in Beijing. Falling immediately before the celebration of China’s National Day, the appalling treatment of these petitioners highlights the failure of the Chinese Communist Government to fulfill its commitment to China’s underprivileged and working classes.

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