In great contrast to Shanghai’s Chen Baoliang, Wang Yuehua hassles journalists via text messages and phone calls. During our text exchange, I learned that he is illiterate, and hence only reads/responds with others’ help. A former farmer from Houdushu Village in Hongqiao town, Yutian county, Tangshan City in Hebei, 50-year-old Wang is losing the ability to walk the weary path of the petitioner and can certainly no longer farm. He divides his time between home, Beijing, and the hospital. He is desperate. He claims that he has been tormented by the head of his village for 20 years, and the local authorities allegedly denied him the fruits of the CCP’s agricultural policies. The culprit Wang claims is responsible escaped punishment via Medical Parole (保外就医 bǎowàijiùyī), a privilege the recently convicted Bo Xilai cannot enjoy until he is over 70 years old.
*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 tell us why you are petitioning?
I came to look for my lost human rights. Our village head said that I had too much land. That’s where it started. My farmland is under the Household Contract Responsibility System (责任承包制) which guarantees that my land cannot change for 30 years and was allocated to me under the rule of the former village head. When he failed to take it over, he destroyed my crops routinely for a decade starting 1997. Then, around the National People’s Congress, when the Agricultural Bureau, the court, and the police department started to address my issue, he hired people to beat me up. The Communist Party acknowledges that the term of my contracted land is 30 years, so by destroying my crops, the village head holds criminal liability.
I even came to Beijing and got in contact with Wen Jiabao. He issued a statement for our local Bureau of Letters and Visits to protect farmers’ rights and asked relative departments to enforce policies lawfully. But, at this point, the village head had bought out the town’s government officials, so Wen’s direction was never passed down. Our deputy party secretary reassured me that an investigating team had been established for me and coordinating meetings involving legal forces and the police force were held. A year passed; when I sought him out, he was no longer at the Political and Judiciary Commission, having been promoted to a member of the judiciary committee. Yet, he said that it was out of his hands now, so I had to take up petitioning again.
After I started coming to Beijing to petition, I got illegally detained. I tried to sue them for illegal detainment, but I had no eyewitnesses. Nor did they present a detention warrant (拘留证). Later, I went to the Agricultural Bureau, which again issued a statement that backed my case. I asked our village head to compensate me for 10 years of damage, as the law was on my side. In March 2012, he hired eight men, drove four cars, and came to my farmland to beat me. I was severely injured and am still in the hospital. Not only do I suffer from injustice, my family has been subjected to injustice as well. All my 17.5 mu of land had water and electricity cut off for 20 years. Even the town mayor did not dare help me because he was afraid of retaliation from the village head. With money, the village head bought more powerful connections than the town mayor dared oppose.
You are still recovering in the hospital? How serious were your injuries?
Yes. They beat me with iron bars and shovels until I was unconscious. This was not the first time. Previously he’d only hire one to two people. My head had 2 openings 5.3 cm wide. My forehead had an opening 5.8 cm long. My lumbar vertebra was so damaged that I still have to lie in bed to this day. I need clutches whenever I go out. I spent tens of thousands on hospital bills and have not been compensated at all.
How do you petition if you are bound to the hospital bed?
I can move around to some extent now. I cannot do farm work, nor walk for long because of my back.
Did you try to make him pay for the beatings?
Yes, but the first day that the court opened, the police, the procuratorate, and the court helped him fake medical parole because he had already bought off government officials. He could roam the world freely instead of spending time in jail. The other assailants were already released in 2012.
Where do you go to petition?
The court, the procuratorate, the Hebei justice system… In Beijing I go to the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Court, UNDP, etc. Even though we are a socialist country, it is still a country under the rule of law. I need basic human rights. I was beaten; the law should at least give me protection. But now, I can get no protection.
How do you petition then?
At night we’d go sleep in the Beijing North Railway Station and take a bus to UNDP in the morning and just wait there. I am ready for them to detain me.
So you are waiting to be detained?
That’s the only way for the local government to take the matter seriously. After I get detained, the Central Government (中央) would contact the local government, who would then have to look for me. I can’t not be detained. If I go through other illegal means, I’ll get even more crushed. When UNDP detains me, the local government cannot detain me anymore because of government policy.
How often do you come?
Once a week. I usually stay for three to five days. Then I come back and check into the hospital or sometimes stay at home. In Beijing, we either live in the railway station or a park. Now when we come, we have to first drive westward to fool the government so they think our destination is not Beijing. Although the village head is not here anymore, the county government is still after us. Us petitioners are already blacklisted at the police office and the local bureau of letters and visits. The only safe place for us is Beijing.
Who are “we”? They are from your hometown?
Petitioners from our neighboring village. A petitioner needs company. Without partners, the local government will either beat us, or push us into a van and detain us. It happens all the time here. Usually three or four of us keep together. We can’t afford to stay in a hotel, nor can we risk it. When we check in, we need to register with our ID; the local government would then find us and detain us with ease.
They can detain you whenever they want?
Yes, they detained me in 2003 because I came to Beijing around the time the Congress was held. I was only there for half a day because of my high blood pressure. They had me sent to a hospital but refused to provide me treatment. They only got me there because they were afraid I’d die at the detention area.
The hospital didn’t treat you?
No, they wouldn’t because I had no money. Luckily a doctor that knew me passed by and helped me by paying out of his own pocket. The government did not care at all, except for making sure that I was kept on watch 24-7. I stayed in the hospital under surveillance for 16 days.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope that in our socialist country, our government, can at least give me justice. Anything is better than nothing, I can hardly continue living. Recently, I sought help from professors at the China University of Political Science and Law. But they only asked their students to explain the laws and help write our petitioning materials for us. There are too many corrupt officials on the local level; nobody wants to even enforce the court’s sentences.
Do you think you have much hope?
Not really. But I am determined. I need a justified answer. The village head needs to pay for what he has done to me and needs to be subjected to legal punishment. I don’t care if I sound reactionary (反动), I have no sense of safety in this society anymore. Death is nothing to me. I’ve been on the brink of death multiple times. Even if our Yulin has no 青天 (justice), Beijing must have 青天. I don’t believe there is no justice in China.
Image courtesy of 湯米tomhk.