Petitioners and dissidents in China have been rounded up or suppressed to keep them out of the public eye so as to not disrupt one of the largest political events of the year, happening today, known as the “two sessions.”
The meetings of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), and its top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are usually preceded by a crackdown.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched its own process of appeal to the ruling party in 1951 called a “petition system.” However, it has often failed to protect Chinese people as offices from regions outside of the center do not have the authority to solve many of the issues brought by petitioners. Even worse, many of the issues brought by petitioners involve corruption by CCP officials who have power.
Every year at this time, when thousands of delegates descend on Beijing, petitioners from provinces across China stream into Beijing seeking justice for a wide range of grievances. They hope for a chance to have their grievance heard and corrected by someone in authority.
However, they are considered to be an embarrassment to the highly choreographed political performance of the “two sessions,” and they are deemed a threat to the Party.
The CCP’s security apparatuses are dispatched before these sensitive periods to secure the capital and put petitioners and dissidents under surveillance.
Petitioners sent to their registered hometown
This year with the ongoing pandemic, the security measures have been increased significantly, as it marks the party’s 100-year anniversary of its founding in China and the beginning of a new five-year plan.
Residents in Beijing have noted the increased security measures throughout the city, with more police and checkpoints in the transport system.
Li Yanxiang, from Pingdu city in Shandong Province, traveled to Beijing in 2015 because local CCP authorities demolished a recycling center that she owned and operated. She was imprisoned for 2½ years, when she was disabled.
On Feb. 25 she was stopped by rail police in Beijing’s Pinganli Metro Station when she required disability assistance.
The petitioner told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that she is now under surveillance, with two cars outside her home, after having been taken back to Pingdu City by police from Beijing and Shandong Province on March 1.
People in Beijing who have a record of petitioning on a matter that involves wrongdoing by CCP officials are escorted back to their registered hometown, said a Beijing resident with a surname Liu to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“Officials from the Beijing representative office of the provincial government have been working with police in Beijing to go out to various villages and residential communities to check people’s ID cards and photos [of people already here],” said Liu.
The authorities routinely rounded up petitioners and sent them back to their hometowns, where they were beaten, detained, and suffered other unfair treatment by local CCP authorities.
Earlier, another petitioner from China’s northern Heilongjiang Province, Ma Bo, was returned to her hometown by local authorities on Feb. 27. Ma petitioned for her son, who died in a violent event on a college campus 14 years ago. She told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that when it comes to sensitive periods such as the annual “two sessions,” her “personal freedom would be limited.”
Curbs on Dissidents
Zhang Yihe, the daughter of Zhang Bojun who was labeled a public enemy and purged in 1957, was placed under police surveillance for the first time this year.
The 79-year-old writer revealed it in a post on the Chinese social media site Wechat, which Guo Yuhua, a Tsinghua University professor, tweeted on March 3.
“Yesterday [March 2], police came to ‘visit’ me, which is a common precaution before the ‘two sessions.’ They never came to me before but now put me, an older woman, on the list. I told them—I am a dissident—so what do you fear?”
Bao Tong, the former adviser to Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted immediately before the violent crushing of student protesters on Tiananmen Square in 1989, was warned not to receive interviews or comment online, according to RFA.
“The relevant department contacted Bao Tong a few days ago and told him not to write anything and not to speak to the media,” an anonymous person told RFA, adding “no articles or tweets.”