In a statement released to Human Rights in China (see below), Shanghai petitioner Shen Peilan (沈佩兰) recounts her abduction by police in Beijing on March 7, 2010, and her eight-day detention in a Shanghai guesthouse – a “black jail.” Her detention coincided with the annual convening of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – commonly known as the “Two Congresses” – in Beijing.
Shen said that she was detained by the personnel of the Shanghai Maqiao Township Petition Office. According to her account, she was released with the help of her lawyer on March 16, two days after the Two Congresses ended. She found out that that morning, the houses on the land her family had used to raise snails – houses that the family most recently rented out to migrant workers – were razed to the ground by the local Maqiao Township government. Eyewitnesses told Shen that about 200 policemen and 10 police vehicles carried out the demolition; the migrant workers were driven from the site, and their belongings were destroyed. (Shen’s family had begun raising snails on the farm in the early 1980s. In 2003, the Maqiao Township government attempted to force Shen’s family to give up the land, which lay outside the area marked for demolition. After Shen’s family refused, the water and electricity supplies to the farm were cut off. Later, the farm was destroyed by arson and vandalized by thugs, and the snail farming operation was forced to stop. The family then began renting the houses on the land out to migrant workers.)
Shen Peilan is just one of dozens of rights activists who have been detained, harassed, and put under surveillance during this year’s Two Congresses. She began petitioning the authorities against forced evictions in 2003. Shen has been repeatedly detained, beaten, and harassed for activism in support of other petitioners, including a 25-day detention in a “black jail” from May to June 2009, around the time of the 20th anniversary of the June Fourth government crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement.
My Ordeal on “International Women’s Day” and during the “Two Congresses”
[Translated by Human Rights in China]
What Premier Wen Jiabao said during the National People’s Congress – such as “let the people live happier and more dignified lives; let the society be more just and harmonious” – warmed my heart. However, on March 8, International Women’s Day, even before the central government’s “Two Congresses” ended, I suffered the worst humiliation of my life. For me, this was the deepest and most unbearable shame.
On March 7, I was eating breakfast at a snack shop near where I normally stay in Beijing when Shanghai police grabbed me and brought me to the South Beijing Relief Station for no reason. Towards evening, I was sent home to Shanghai in the dining car of Train T103 along with more than 40 other people.
I arrived at the Shanghai station at midday on March 8. We were held on two minibuses at the train station and then forcibly sent directly to the Shanghai Relief Station on Fu Chun Road. After about 15 minutes, I was taken by the ombudsman of the Minhang District Petition Office, Zhu Mengsheng, in an Audi to the Minhang District Petition Office. When the car arrived there, a car from the Maqiao Township Petition Office had already been waiting at the entrance for a long time. Maqiao Township Petition Office employee Wang Leifeng headed [the group], and there were four people who were Maqiao Township city management employees, and one was the driver. They were in their thirties and all male. They demanded I get in their car. After I got in the car, they sat me between them. Soon afterwards, Wang Leifeng ordered those city management employees to take away my cell phone, and then kidnapped me to Xianggang Guesthouse in Chedun Town, Songjiang District.
They ordered me to get out of the car. When I refused, they swarmed around me and dragged me from the car. They hoisted me by my head and my feet, as if quartering me, and dragged me into Xianggang Guesthouse. My pants and my underpants were pulled off in the process, as were my top and jacket. In broad daylight and in full view of everyone, I was dragged half-naked into the lobby of Xianggang Guesthouse. No one showed sympathy or tried to rescue me. Finally they carried me into room 509. They even sent the director of the Maqiao Township Neighborhood Committee, He Liumei, and a retired employee, Jiao Yuqi, to guard me.
Suffering such humiliation and hurt is extremely painful for me! The most ironic thing was that that day was March 8, International Women’s Day, a holiday for us women around the world. To suffer such unbearable humiliation from the Maqiao Township Petition Office on such a day is not only degrading to me but also to every woman in the country! Article 237 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates: “Whoever acts indecently against or insults a woman by violence, coercion or any other forcible means shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years or criminal detention. Whoever gathers a number of people to commit the crime mentioned in the preceding paragraph or commits the crime before the public in a public place shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years.”
However, the most maddening thing is, even though what happened to me comes under the definition of “group crime,” because I, the victim, am a common person, there is simply no way to investigate these “organized” criminals. Can our society be considered to be one that is ruled by law?
I did not realize that on March 16, not long after the Two Congresses ended – when the sound of Premier Wen Jiabao saying “fairness and justice are more brilliant than the sun … ” during a press conference was still being played over and over on the television – and while I was still detained at the guesthouse and my husband and son were in the city, the Minhang District and the Maqiao Township authorities took advantage of our absence, mobilized over 200 policemen and 10 police vehicles, and secretly razed to the ground the snail farm we had operated for more than 20 years and reduced it to rubble.
Because the farm facilities had been damaged a few years ago by them, and we could not continue to use the farm, we rented out the houses on the farm to migrant workers. They work very hard and the money they earn is soaked with their sweat. When the farm was demolished, these renters were driven out, their cell phones blocked so that they could not contact my family. Their personal belongings, money, motorcycles, etc., were all buried under the rubble. When my husband and son rushed home from the city, the houses were already in ruins. The whole demolition process took less than half an hour. Later, I heard from an eyewitness that police were guarding the streets leading up to our farm in all directions and no one was allowed in or out, and that only with this kind of administrative infringement could they have gotten their way.
Another thing was, in the afternoon around 4:00 p.m. on this day, my husband and the lawyer found the place where I was being held. After the lawyer, Jing, reported to the police, Songjiang District 110 [emergency number] sent police to rescue me and get me out. In great sadness, my husband told me, “The farm we had operated for half a lifetime has already been demolished! It happened just this morning.” This made me so angry that I felt as if my lungs were going to explode. I must make them pay! I must find these corrupt, greedy officials and settle scores with them! I must do as the Zhang Yaolong couple and go to my death bringing them down with me! At that time I was very agitated. Afterwards, only with my lawyer and my friends comforting me and talking to me did I slowly calm down. A lot of people have continuously shown their concern for me, and my friends all called to comfort me. I feel buoyed by the power of their familial affection and friendship. In the past few days, my mood seems to be much better.
Now I want to say, my hatred is the kind that makes me grind my teeth! I also think: Even though I am under a one-party dictatorship, where might is above the law, and where there is law but no compliance, I am still prepared to pick up the weapons of the law to fight this type of thug-like, organized, sinister local power to the very end!
At this time, as I recount my painful experience of suffering the violation of my human rights and losing my private property, I want to once again express my gratitude to all the friends who care about me.
For more information on Shen Peilan, see: