Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Beijing authorities have rounded up more than 100 petitioners, apparently in preparation for China’s National Day observances on October 1. Among the detainees is the elderly father of Xu Zhengqing, a petitioner currently on trial in Shanghai for disturbing social order.
Sources in China told HRIC that shortly after midnight on September 28, more than 200 police officers from the Xuanwu District Public Security Bureau carried out a raid on two hostels. With the assistance of hostel staff, police forcibly entered rooms and carried out inquiries resulting in the detention of more than 100 petitioners from Shanghai. Police loaded the petitioners into vehicles and transported them to a petitioner handling station in the Majialou neighborhood of Beijing’s Fengtai district.
Among the detainees was Xu Yongdao, the father of Xu Zhengqing, who had traveled to Beijing on September 25 to petition the central government on behalf of his son. Xu Yongdao, in his seventies, suffers from high blood pressure and has one leg partially paralyzed from a stroke. Other detainees include frequent petitioners Chen Enjuan, who was recently released from detention in Shanghai, Shen Yongmei, Cai Wenjun, Chen Daili and Wang Cuidi.
The Shanghai petitioners found upon their arrival at Majiaolou that they were joining a large number of other detained petitioners from other parts of China such as Liaoning and Jilin. HRIC’s sources say that no measures were taken to address the needs of the detainees for food, drink and shelter from the chilly autumn weather. The Shanghai detainees were all eventually sent back to Shanghai. Sources say that around the same time, police carried out raids on other hostels, as well as on a petitioner squatter village near Beijing’s South Train Station, rounding up at least 100 more people. However, most of these detainees were immediately sent back to their places of origin rather than being taken to Majialou. According to HRIC’s sources, petitioner sweeps have become a routine part of the Beijing government’s preparations for National Day in recent years.
Despite recent publicized efforts by the central government on legislative amendments and administrative procedure to improve the petitioning process, this wide-scale roundup suggests that social control remains the government’s priority. HRIC condemns these repressive sweeps and detentions and calls upon the Chinese authorities to respect Chinese law and more effectively address the problems raised by the petitioners.