Chinese Petitioners Forced to Beg, Collect Garbage
ONCE JUST A mother who wanted to speak up for her son, Liao Wenfeng is now
forced to live under a Beijing bridge, living on food from begging and making a
living by scrambling through garbage.
Liao had traveled 1,000 miles to Beijing with other petitioners from Hunan
Province, only to find out on June 29 that Beijing’s petition office stopped
hearing appeals, probably part of an effort to crack
down on petitioners to clear the streets for Chinese Communist Party’s 90th
Unwilling to return without hearing back from the government, Liao and her
fellow petitioners—with income halted and savings exhausted—now camp together
under the bridge.
Liao told The
Regardless how harsh the environment is, I will persevere until the
government is willing to face and solve the problem.
Liao’s story dates back to April 2006, when her son was sent to the local
police station following an argument with her aunt. The police forced him to
confess by torture, leading him to suffer internal injuries.
Since late April 2006, when the local procuratorate ratified his arrest, Liao
hadn’t heard much about her son. When she did hear about him, she probably
wished she didn’t.
The news came in September that her son died suddenly in jail—an incident
that pushed her mother on a path of rights activism.
It hasn’t been an easy path: Liao was detained 18 times, put in labor camp
twice on charges of “disturbing public order," and beaten by a police officer
who was trying to stop her from entering a local petition office in Hunan.
Liao’s suffering isn’t an isolated case.
A fellow petitioner from the Hunan city of Shaoyang, Li Yinzhen, was labor
camped for a year in 2007 and two years in 2009. While in labor camp, Li said
she suffered from coronary heart disease and high blood pressure as a result of
heavy workload at the camp.
Like Liao, Li is also in the capital for the injustice done to her son.
On his way home from elementary school, Li’s son was mistaken as a drug
dealer and arrested by police. Without letting him give any word, the police
beat him heavily, resulting in Li’s son suffering from traumatic brain injury
and vascular headache. Despite later admitting that they misidentified him, the
police refused to take any responsibility.
Li said in Beijing:
Even though the [Beijing] petition office has stopped hearing appeals, I want
to stay [in Beijing] to continue to try.