Mr. Wang Keqiang petitioner across from the UNDP in Beijing. He sat with two fellow petitioners in the shade, idly chatting as I approached. Wang Keqiang’s case differs from the usual land disputes, as it involves murder, the murder of his son. He is 64 years old, from the village of Weijiacun in Long’an town of Changcun City in Jilin Province. Over 15 years ago, his son, a shop owner, was murdered by a young man that owed him money. Thus began a decade of fighting against local officials spanning over a decade. He wants justice to be served, his proud patriotism a remnant of Mao era rule. Wang’s views regarding petitioning are less optimistic than the 48-year-old Ms. Wu, but his trust in the Politburo and the future of the nation is unwavering.
*The World of Chinese does not verify or endorse the statements of petitioners in this segment, and views expressed by the interviewee are not necessarily the views of TWOC. The World of Chinese does not challenge or endorse the judgments courts or allegations that may be made by the interviewee. Names may be redacted where the editorial staff deem pertinent, and, if requested, a pseudonym will be used for the interviewee’s protection. The petitioners who come to Beijing are some of the most diverse, interesting, patriotic, and heroic people in China. These are their stories.
–Managing Editor, Tyler Roney
Could you briefly explain your petitioning case?
After the murderer killed my son, he should have repaid with his life. But they’ve got government ties, a protective umbrella. Not only did he not pay his life, he was released after just a few years in prison and did not give us any compensation either. I’ve been filing court cases against him for more than ten years, but I’ve never won. His ties are too strong, with relations with the provincial procuratorate (省检察院, shěngjiǎncháyuàn). Now, they are even forging evidence and twisting the case materials. The local offices and courts kick me around like a football; none of them wish to accept my case. So, now I’ve come to Beijing. My son suffered too much injustice (冤屈, yuānqū). His death left me with his two children. The murderer owed him money and killed him! Currently, however much justice we petitioners have on our side, our petition materials are sent back to local government departments for them to solve. But local bureaus never take any action.
What are you hoping to achieve via petitioning then?
To win justice for my son (给我儿子一个公道, gěi wǒ érzi yīgè gōngdào). To have the case of his murder go through the legal process. Why can’t I win the case now? It’s because, although the country’s policies are wonderful, local governments that enact them are not. After I started coming to Beijing to petition, my local officials have started saying that I am insane, that I come to them because of psychological illnesses. They have power and money, and I have neither.
How long have you been in Beijing?
Two years. I visited Beijing 10 years ago. The local court has offered to settle for 200,000 yuan. But I didn’t accept it. Justice for my son would not be served.
It wasn’t the murderer who tried to settle?
No. Because if local courts and justice departments admit that the previous sentence was wrong, the state has to compensate me and overrule the previous verdict. They told me to go ahead with my petitions because the matter would be sent down to the local level to be resolved anyway.
So you’ve been living in Beijing for two years?
Yes, the previous trips were short because they were costly. I have already asked the United Nations to detain me twice.
Ask to be detained? For what?
To put pressure on the local government. When I get detained, local departments get fined. We hope to get in touch with CCP officials everyday, but it is just impossible.
So the Bureau of Letters and Visits doesn’t work?
A: Well, they work on some level. They also give local departments pressure. But local governments are okay with it; they can choose to not take action because they’ve got power and money. They can get the state’s money via corruption, and they can scrape money off of the common people.
Do you think your case will be solved eventually?
Well… It is difficult. Corrupt officials are so obstinate. I figure, if they don’t solve it for me, considering my age, I will probably try to take them to court until my death. Sue them or die trying.
So you don’t think you are likely to succeed?
You never know. I really hope that Chairman Xi can enact a reform and give the common people (老百姓, lǎobǎixìng) justice. Now, I see the world of petitioning crystal clear, there are so many that have it worse than me. I saw a 70-year-old woman that had it really hard. Sometimes the petition-interceptors (截访, jiéfǎng) beat petitioners, some have been beaten disabled. In the old days of Mao, life was good. Now, life is not. I think it’d be best for the state to undergo a reform, otherwise the country will wane. I studied during Mao’s days, and was even a Red Guard. I admit that the Central Party’s policies are good, but on the local level, government officials protect one another (官官相护, guānguānxiānghù). CCP members really are good officials though.
How does jiefang work?
Each province has a Beijing-based office (驻京办事处, zhùjīng bànshìchù). They are in charge of intercepting petitioners, for example at Majialou. They are supposed to give petitioners ticket money to go back, but they always pocket some themselves.
How do they know where to intercept you?
They are notified one by one, from the local level to the top level. Sometimes they can locate you using the satellite on your phone and stick you into a van back to your hometown.
What’s your life like in Beijing?
I live under a bridge everyday. Never get enough sleep or enough to eat. I woke up freezing last night. I’m telling you, petitioning is the hardest, and the most difficult. There’s nothing harder in the world than petitioning. I borrow money, and get loans sometimes. We sit here everyday, much like beggars.
Do you come here everyday?
I visit the Bureau of Letters and Visits every two months and the Supreme People’s Court (高法, gāofǎ) every three months. If you go to Zhongnanhai [out of desperation] because there’s never an answer or any action taken, you’d get detained straight away, usually for 10 days. You are usually detained by local governments for 10 days and then released.
(Another petitioner speaks up): When we go to embassies, they see us with our bags and identify us as petitioners. Immediately they are on alert and ask us what we are up to. We can only answer, “nothing just passing by”.
You stated previously that vans come to take petitioners away. Can you tell me more about that?
Yes… They come and take you back to your hometown. Sometimes it’s a beating that awaits you. Sometimes it’s detainment.
What do you eat in the detention centers?
Mantou (馒头, mántou), a few pieces of vegetables stewed in water, there’s not even oil. Once I tried to ask for another mantou and was refused. Only 2 to 3 meals a day.You know, if I could win the case, I could get around a million yuan. If a government official is willing to help [me win], I’ll gladly pay him 1.2 million yuan.