HONG KONG — ; Police in Beijing have launched a massive crackdown on petitioners in the capital, herding tens of thousands of ordinary people seeking redress for grievances into a makeshift detention camp in a sports stadium.
“They’ve arrested lots of people... There’s no-one here now,” one resident of Beijing’s “petitioner village” told RFA's Mandarin service, adding that police had swooped on the area for the past few nights, taking away large numbers of residents, many of whom camp in the “village” following government-sponsored evictions in their hometowns.
“Last time they came there were several dozen police officers,” he said.
“There were very many police vehicles around the place yesterday, and very many again today,” another petitioner, Wang Lin, said in an interview.
The New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) said it had learned that tens of thousands of petitioners from all over China had recently been detained in Beijing, with many suffering abusive conditions in custody.
“Police detained more than 36,000 petitioners in the first few days of September,” HRIC said in a statement. “The detentions have apparently been spurred by a desire to ensure public order in advance of a meeting of the Central Committee of the 16th Party Congress next week.”
Beijing petitioner Li Yulan, who has been held under house arrest by police since July, said the crackdown was systematic and city-wide in the run-up to the Party Congress meeting.
“They are checking all the households in the city. Anyone from out of town has to go to a police station for questioning. If they find that they are in Beijing pursuing an official complaint, they will detain them and take them to the Shijingshan Stadium [in a western suburb],” Li said.
Reports said the stadium, built for the Asian Games in 1992, was under tight security, with guards ordering onlookers away. Police vans and cars surrounded the building. Once identified, petitioners were handed over to officials from their native provinces to be taken home, Li told RFA.
Petitioners from all over China—many of whom have been thrown out of their homes and suffered abuse at the hands of corrupt officials—traditionally head to Beijing before major national events to try and make their voices heard.
Recently, many have urged the release of Ye Guozhu, a leading activist who was recently arrested for applying to organize a 10,000-strong rally in Beijing.
On the Web:
Roundup: Read the full Human Rights in China statement
Golden promises: Official China Daily article on unpaid workers