Petition-interception officers from various cities gathering outside State Bureau for Letters and Visits in Beijing. Image credit: Epoch Times
Zhang Yaodong, a 55-year-old man from Henan province, was one of thousands of petitioners who spend years, sometimes decades fruitlessly filing complaints and trying to seek justice in Beijing, on the highly debatable assumption that the centre of Chinese government is less toxically corrupt than its various provincial tentacles.
Caixin recounts his fate:
Zhang, who was at a government petitioner’s office in Beijing at the time, received a phone call from his older sister who said that the local court had promised to address his petition. He packed his bags and boarded a van back to his hometown in Pingdingshan Prefecture, Henan Province.
An hour later, Zhang’s sister received a call from a petitioner in the same van, who told her that her brother had been beaten unconscious. Zhang’s sister arrived in Beijing on the second day only to find her brother dead.
Under China’s dysfunctional system of governance, where officials’ performance is measured by a number of abstract and occasionally ludicrous quotas, petitioners to Beijing are a local official’s worst enemy. Black jails and professional kidnappers generally scoop up those who the deliberately insane complaints bureaucracy doesn’t turn off in the first place.
Occasionally a petitioner will pose such a threat to “stability” (i.e. an official’s career prospects), that even more drastic methods are in order.
Zhang and a number of fellow petitioners from Henan were being escorted back to the province by “black security guards” (hired thugs masquerading as police officers) when the van they were travelling in stopped to let in “two men in their twenties, one fat and one thin, whose identities were never revealed.”
Upon boarding the van, the two men demanded everyone hand over their phones. Wang [another petitioner] refused, saying the phone was private property. Zhang asked them to show their law enforcement certificates.
The thin man began to insult Wang and slapped her on the face. The fat man began to beat Zhang.
The van doors were closed and those inside had no way to get out, nor did their cries escape the vehicle. Wang used one hand to ward off her attacker and banged on the window for help with the other.
Wang recalled that the beatings lasted more than 10 minutes. During this time, Huang, who sat in the front of the vehicle, began weeping and begged the Nanyang men to stop the beatings.
The thin man replied, “This is Beijing. As long as we don’t kill anyone, no one will care.” Before long, Wang heard someone in the back of the van screaming. When she turned around, she saw Zhang had fainted.
The two men started to panic. They unbuttoned Zhang’s clothes and hit his chest in an attempt to resuscitate him.
Zhang died shortly afterwards, police in Beijing refused to investigate his murder. He never received the justice he sought, and it is likely that, had his death not come at the politically sensitive time of the 18th Party Congress, his family would be also have been left with nothing.
Under political pressure to create a harmonious society for the important congress, officials in Pingdingshan soon reached a deal with the family, with the assistance of the Beijing police. The family agreed to affirm the official cause of Zhang’s death as disease. In return, the family would accept millions of yuan in compensation. The case was closed.