By Tamara Gil
More than two hours away from the centre of Beijing is the “petitioners village”, a group of huts that belong to citizens demanding justice in China and who are unable to find work or decent housing as they have been blacklisted by the regime.
Wang, 60, lives on a plot of six square metres along with her husband and hides a small latrine under the mattress for emergencies.
Her options are limited: go the open fields to relieve herself or walk for 20 minutes to the nearest public washroom.
“I step out to get vegetables, but only when it gets dark. I’m embarrassed to be seen,” Wang tells Efe news agency, sobbing.
Wang was the chief economist of a big company who ended up being demoted and fired with an extremely low compensation package.
“They want to set someone up. I tried to claim through all means and the only thing I got was the torture of the camps (extrajudicial prisons) and social exclusion,” says Wang.
Wang, as well the other people gathered in her hut, are victims of the same problem: the rampant corruption in their localities and the lack of an independent judiciary that could provide them a way out.
In such a situation, they have no option but to turn to the government in Beijing to intervene, but all they have been met with is repression.
In most of the cases, the authorities locked them up in the recently abolished prison camps or gulags for four years without a trial. All this, just for asking for justice.
Once released, they are “tarnished” forever.
Petitioners are some of China’s most vulnerable citizens, and they have a right to housing while they pursue their legal claims. Demolishing the Fengtai settlement only adds insult to injury– Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch
“My identity card says that I am mentally sick so no one employs me,” explained Wang, as she shows Efe the more than 1,000 letters she has sent to the Bureau of Letters addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping asking him for help, all without receiving any response.
Jia, 55, also marked, says that she gets nervious every time a guard comes close.
“They stop us every now and then so at the time of the (recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders summit I hid in the mountains,” she says quiveringly, giving details about how they were beaten with electric rods in the “camps”.
“The petitioners are like wandering ghosts. Once thay have been marked in the national system, many of their rights are denied, if not all, including the option of staying in a guesthouse, get a job or even use the subway in Beijing,” explains Wendy Lin, Hong Kong coordinator for the China Human Rights Defenders non-governmental organisation.
Hence, they end up in a place they call “petitioners village” where almost everyone has undergone some sort of tragedy or the other and experienced first hand the human rights violations that are committed in the world’s second largest economy.
Once in a while, the police pay a visit to this inhospitable area which, despite the poor infrastructure, is riddled with surveillance cameras and where searches are carried out without a court order.
According to some experts, the new judicial reform launched by the government in October will help reduce such situations with measures that exert pressure on local courts to accept more cases, including those involving the authorities. (IANS)