A tourist visiting Beijing named Zhao Zhifei (赵志斐) was recently mistaken for a petitioner, and was dragged from his hotel by a dozen unidentified men, and packed into a van on the evening of September 15th. Zhao was then discovered the following day lying unconscious on Yingcai Road (英才路) in Luoyang’s Luolong District, in what appears to be a straightforward case of mistaken identity: Zhao was unlucky enough to share a hotel room with three other Henanese men who actually were petitioning in the capital.
Zhao’s ID Card, money and cell phone were also confiscated at the time of his abduction by “black security guards” (黑保安), whose services were reportedly hired by the Gucheng Township Letters and Calls Bureau in Luoyang’s Luolong District (洛龙区古城乡信访办). Even after Zhao’s case was confirmed as a mistaken identity issue, Zhao’s father was reportedly told by an official that his son should learn to “stay away from Beijing…this time it was a wrong arrest and he was still found, what happens if next time he can’t be found?”
To make matters even more ironic and absurd, Zhao is actually himself a government employee who works as a family planning official in Henan’s Yichuan County (伊川县).
BBC News reports that six officials in Luoyang have been punished, with only one official at the Letters and Calls Bureau in Gucheng getting the sack, another getting suspended, and another four merely receiving warnings. One official has even had the decency to apologize to Zhao for the embarrassing blunder.
However, Zhao’s case is only significant in that he was mistaken for someone he wasn’t, while the phenomenon of harassment and abduction of petitioners can be considered business as usual.
Though perhaps the scale of the crime differs, it would appear that Zhao might be considered China’s Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen who was Extraordinarily Renditioned by the CIA on New Year’s Eve 2003, due to his name being similar to suspected terrorist, Khalid Al-Masri.
So whatever happened to the saccharine spirit of “Beijing Welcomes You” (北京欢迎你), that Free Bird-length tune that was heard everywhere around the Olympics? The nightmare continues.
UPDATED: And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better/worse/farcical, we find out that the photo displayed was photoshopped. The photo, released by Beijing News, concealed the fact that Zhao was found with his pants shredded and in tatters. Because if anything in this story is too much to bear, it’s the fact that Zhao was showing off a little leg.
Photo and additional information from ccvic.com