The news of 40 parents petitioning in Beijing for their missing children has been censored by the mainstream media and major internet news portals in China. Blogger Beifeng re-posts a first-person account from one of the petitioning parents in his blog, and urges readers to spread the news.
I gave the phone number of Liu Xiao-yuan, a human rights lawyer, to Mr. Pang hoping that Liu could give him more advice. However, within an hour, Mr. Pang was arrested.
Below is what he had written to me, an account of their petition experience in Beijing. I hope readers can help to spread the news on the Internet.
In recent years, there have been countless numbers of child kidnapping cases all over the country. Criminals are becoming more violent, organized, professional and international. In order to find our missing children, we traveled across the country and many of us are now in debt in addition to the tremendous emotional stress we have been suffering. Some of the parents have turned crazy and sick… Due to man-made factors (here, I don't want to attack our public security department), we have lost much time for saving our dear children. We could only file our case when our children had been lost for 24 hours. Such regulations have provided the human traffickers time for their crime, reminding them to smuggle our children away within 24 hours. We have no choice but to seek help from higher authorities.
Six months passed, and now it has been one year, parents are living in agony. Some parents were forced to give up due to all kinds of reason. In the process of searching for our children, parents with similar fates have come together, and share our bitter story. By chance, we came across an article about rescuing kidnapped children from Henan. We wonder how our Premier Wen got to know the case, and with his instruction, an 8-month hanging case was resolved within 8 days.
The article gives us hope in seeking for our children. We believe that if Premier Wen knows about our situation, he can definitely help us to find our children. With this hope, we decided to visit Beijing together and hand in our petition to Premier Wen. In order to avoid having negative impact on our national image, we decided to petition on Sep 22, after the end of Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On Sep 22, missing children's parents from all over the country arrived in Beijing. We found a cheap hostel (a dungeon) to settle down. Some of them were sleeping in the Beijing railway station as they couldn't afford the cost of the hostel. Later we decided to share the cost and let them stay in the hostel as well. We discussed and decided to display our missing person posters outside the Birdnest stadium. There were in total more than 40 parents coming from 10 provinces. On the day, all of us gathered outside the magnificent building which all Chinese people are so proud of. However, we didn't have the mood to take a good look of this Birdnest. We walked to the east gate where there were more people around and displayed our missing children posters on the spot. We wanted more people to know what happened to us and remind people to protect their children from traffickers.
Many people felt sympathy with us, some even bought us water. Some parents became emotional and voiced their grievances to pedestrians. A university student approached us and wanted to help us to spread the news. An American reporter proposed to interview us, but we rejected the interview as we felt that this is a Chinese matter and should be dealt with by Chinese government. Moreover, we didn't want to internationalize the issue. We decided to collect our posters and seek help from Chinese media — CCTV.
The good-hearted university student became our tourist guide as we were not familiar with Beijing. The 40 parents felt lucky to find their way to CCTV. However, we were being followed and watched by 3 strangers. I think they were from the national security bureau to prevent us from extreme action.
Outside the gate of CCTV, there was a small window which is supposed to be the reception of the participants of the program “Today focus”. We arrived there at 4 p.m. and wanted to present our situation. However, the window was closed and there came an armed security guard asking what we were there for. Probably because we had 40 people, he looked rather tense. We explained our intention and told him that we are parents of missing children from all over the country. He replied that he couldn't make decision and for this kind of issue they need to seek approval from SARFT. He also explained that if CCTV took up the issue, it would have negative impact on the “harmonious society”. The implication was clear, CCTV had rejected our request politely.
Of course, the parents lost their emotional control. They took out their missing children posters and blocked the main gate of CCTV. Some of the parents complained that the CCTV only reported the good side and ignored the bad side of the society and wondered how the society would be improved and harmonious. They couldn't understand how CCTV could decide to ignore such a serious social problem. As the situation turned chaotic, the security staff called 110 for the police. In 2 minutes, 3 police vehicles arrived. In order to carry on our petition, we didn't want to be in conflict with the police, the university student volunteered to negotiate with the police and asked us to leave the scene. We returned to the hostel while the student was detained until 10 p.m until the university leader came to the police station to pick him up. We were so grateful to the student and furious at the police. They didn't help us at all and on the contrary harassed the university student. The issue was getting more complicated in Beijing.
It was rainy in Beijing on the 23rd and the temperature dropped suddenly. Most of the parents are from the south and it was very difficult for us to stay outdoors. At first, we hoped that our sincerity could move CCTV and help us by reporting the issue. On the next day, we sent three representatives to CCTV again. This time, an old man was at the reception. He could only show his sympathy to us and said he would help to reflect our condition to the leader. However, he also told us that CCTV is the window of the nation, it is very unlikely that they would report on this. He advised us to seek other ways. It seems that CCTV won't report on a social problem until they cannot cover it up anymore. There are many such examples, including Weng'an incident, Yang Jia court case and the Sanlu milk scandal. We had to give more pressure by raising concern from the public and decided to go to Wang Fujing to display our posters.
We didn't know how the police got to know where we stayed but they managed to block us from our action. We were detained in the hostel. However, probably the reporters got our contact number from our display posters at Birdnest stadium. Reporters from ABC and Catalonia television called us for interviews. Upon consulting all the parents’ opinions, we decided to accept the interview. As CCTV rejected to report on our case, we had no reason to reject foreign media anymore. However, the interview arrangement was not smooth. Beijing police tried very hard to stop us. But we have the right to be interviewed and foreign reporters also have the right to report news. The police then pressured the owner of the hostel. The parents were outraged and pushed them out of the hostel with their posters in their hands. In the end, the Beijing police compromised and allowed us to do the interview inside the hostel. With posters in our hands, we took turns telling our stories in seeking for our children. All of us cried, the reporters also shed tears. We had suffered from the greatest pain in life. The reporters told us that they would try hard to reflect our story to higher rank officials in China.
On Sep 24, we left the hostel very early in order to avoid police detainment. We planned to pay a petition visit to the highest authority. However, once we stepped out of the hostel, a police vehicle started to follow us and the number of police vehicles kept increasing. In the end, there were 8 police vehicles behind us. When we reached northern Changan street near the gate of Xidan Market, 4 police blocked us and asked what we were doing there. They checked our ID and it was quite obvious that they planned to take action. I turned around and noticed that there were about 10 police in each vehicle, which meant a total of 80 police in the 8 vehicles.
Xun Zhou's father lost his emotional control and cried out that we were here to look for our children. He tried to take out the posters from his bag, but more than 10 police came and grabbed his neck, twisting his arms and pulling his hair and clothes. Other parents rushed forward and they were immediately surrounded by the 80 police. Xun Zhou's father was treated like a murderer by 8 other police and locked into a vehicle for prisoners. (It was so horrible, such a scene could only be viewed in TV dramas and all the parents were terrified.) I tried to argue with the police: we have done nothing against the law and public security, why do you arrest our people? Then the police gave me Xun Zhou's father's treatment.
A police roared like a dog pulled my hair and dragged me to the vehicle. He kept saying: “you dare to question the government? Dare to blackmail the government?” We were in despair. We could only blame our fate for living in such a “harmonious society”. This is such a horrible harmony. How can the people's police be so violent to parents who lost their children? And we could not even reason with them. Upon seeing what had happened to two of us, other parents got into the vehicle by themselves. In the end, we were sent to a “temporary petitioners’ point” at the western Changan Street police station. The place was in fact a prison. We were locked with an iron door and the police confiscated our IDs.
On the wall, there were posters about regulation dealing with non-legitimate petitions. They probably expected us to learn the regulation. I met an expert petitioner who has visited the higher authorities 429 times. He was to be detained for 15 days for his stubbornness. In the site, they didn't give us any water nor food. However, there was a snack bar, and the prices for instant noodles and water were as expensive as those on the train. I really admired our people's police, they could make money out of petitioners (outside the topic). We wanted to take some photos and found that the site was monitored by CCTV. 4 police rushed in and seized my camera, deleting all photos related to this petition and the brutal actions of the police. As the police said, “What we say is the law here”. It is so damn dark!
In the afternoon, the Western Changan Street police station sent us to the petition reception section of the police department with two vehicles. The leader was surprised to find so many of us there. He asked us to line up and sent some representative to present the case in a meeting. Some parents were eager while others who had more experience refused to attend the meeting as the police department petition reception section would only refer the case to lower authorities rather than higher authorities. In the end, 10 parents attended the meeting. The rest refused and prepared to visit the petition reception bodies at the national and state council level. Later, the 10 parents called us to join the meeting or else they could not leave the room. As the police promised they would let us go after they finished documenting our cases, I called up the rest of the parents and asked them to return to the police petition reception section. However, after we had finished filling in the documents, we were sent to a bus which drove us to the outskirts of Beijing. We had no idea where we were heading toward.
The bus drove for half an hour and we entered a courtyard. The place was called the “Jiu Jing-zhuang service center”. We didn't know why we were there. We were put into a super large room made of steel sheets. There were a lot of security guards and we had to go through security check. We couldn't bring our cameras and were forced to be separated according to our household registration regions. We entered the room according to the security guards’ instructions, everyone of us got a province tag. I asked them why we were sent to the center. They said all petitioners would end up in the center no matter whether they were doing a legitimate or non-legitimate petition visit. They have to wait for their local government to pick them up.
There were thousands of people here and you could imagine how much injustice must be happening all around the country. I really wish that our national leaders could come here to listen to the people. This is the best place, the petitioners varied from people in their 70s to very young people. All 40 of us were divided according to our region of origin. My hometown is in Hubei, but my children were kidnapped in Shenzhen, therefore I waited in the room of Guangzhou province. All the walls are made of steel sheets and there is only a tiny ventilation window. Regulations on petition were posted around on the walls.
Here I met an old man, who had been petitioning for 40 years for vindication of the Cultural Revolution. Many of the petitioners in the center were very experienced. We lost our freedom here. The place was horrible, from time to time we heard people crying and screaming as many petitioners refused to go because their problem hadn't been dealt with. However, local government would drag them away and send them back to their hometown. I witnessed a 70 year-old lady being dragged away like that.
Some said that the person who killed an American during the Olympics was also a petitioner. He was sent here many times but his problem remained unsolved. He probably felt desperate and turned extreme. The story was a hearsay in the center and I didn't know whether it was a rumor or not.
The 40 parents were picked up by local government one by one. Within 4 hours, my hometown government found me and wanted to take me away. I told them that my problem had nothing to do with the hometown government, the kidnapping happened in Shenzhen. My hometown government people said that all petitioners were to be taken care of by their hometown government regardless of their reason. Then they took me to their Beijing office. I was detained in a hotel and my ID was confiscated. I was tailed 24 hours a day and detained in the office for three days while waiting for my hometown official to pick me up. In the end, the manager of the resident committee in my hometown came. He wrote a guarantee document and later bought me a train ticket to Shenzhen.
In the past, Beijing was where the emperor lived. The city is at the foot of the Son of Heaven. The trip to Beijing has given us an important lesson. The Beijing police are the most hardworking police in the whole country. The police vehicles are everywhere and all the police are on high alert. The Beijing authorities have a very effective mechanism to block petitions. We didn't anticipate this as the TV keeps promoting the civilized image of the Beijing police force. I couldn't imagine that Beijing police could treat this group of desperate parents who lost their children with such brutal action. Don't they have hearts? Couldn't they imagine how they could have suffered if they lost their children? Here I quote from the Beijing police: “How dare you question the government? How dare you blackmail the government?” We went there to ask for government's help and beg our government to help us to find our children, this is not questioning and far from blackmailing. The police who said so is a son of a bitch. I wish Yang Jia had killed some of such kind. I don't think such police can represent the government, he ruined the government's reputation by talking in the name of the government. All the parents are desperate. They came to Beijing with hope, but it is not a place where you can spell out your reason. Where else can we go?