Xu Zhiyong (许志永) : A Petitioner’s Tale

xzyXu Zhiyong, noted legal scholar and activist, has written a post on the plight of a female petitioner. In his blog entry, he details the hospital’s reception of her after discovering her status as a petitioner, and describes the setbacks and emotional struggles that were later faced. The story is still on-going, and can be followed at his blog. The following comes from his entry dated April 30th, translated by CDT. The post was censored on May 2nd. [Photo of Xu Zhiyong via Un oeil sur la Chine]

Sometime after 7 PM, I received a call on my cell phone from Mr. Qifang Cheng: “Professor Xu, I kept on calling you but there was no response. Around 8, the medicine was stopped for the person who was beaten in the city of Linyi in Shandong Province. She has no money for treatment, and is currently at Tongren Hospital.”

“How did this happen?”

“She petitioned, and then was seriously beaten by Linyi officers stationed in Beijing. Though she had lost consciousness, the hospital couldn’t treat her. What can be done about this?”

I was silent for a moment, and then told him: “Wait for me at the Tongren Hospital entrance between 9 and 9:30.”

I really didn’t want to cut off my train of thought. These past few days I’d been continuously at work on the series “Beautiful and Good Politics.” My cell phone had originally been off. In half an hour, I hastily made plans to finish an article, and then rushed to KFC to buy a hamburger and get on the subway.

braceMr. Qifang Cheng was already waiting at the hospital entrance, along with the injured’s older sister and mother. At the second floor ER inspection ward was the unconscious woman, lying on her bed. Her neck was supported by a plastic brace. To her side, there was no IV drip.







Her older sister said “On April 27, my younger sister was jailed in the Phoenix Youth Hotel [a black jail]. That afternoon, she was pulled over by Linyi officers who came from Majialou. Her head was forced onto the car interior’s floor. After hearing about this, I went over to help her and ask about what had happened. She said that she had been beaten and that her stomach was in pain, and then passed out again. After calling 120 and 110 [China’s emergency telephone lines] several times, I was finally able to get her sent to You’anmen Hospital. The doctor then said that nothing was wrong. I pleaded with him to give some painkillers, but he wouldn’t give any. ‘Go home,’ the doctor said, ‘There’s nothing wrong.’ I could only furtively bring her to Tongren Hospital. During filming, I did not dare to say that my little sister had been beaten due to her petitioning. However, when I later told a doctor the real story, the doctor then said that nothing was wrong, that there were no more beds available, and that we were to return home. Fortunately, I then found a kind-hearted doctor. After seeing her, he was very surprised and nervously said, “You must not move her! This is life-threatening. Quickly put her on a bed, and do not allow her to move.” After this, we found out that my little sister’s spleen had ruptured. The few thousand yuan we had was quickly spent. This morning, we tried ordering medicine, but we had no money, so we couldn’t get any and they stopped the IV drip. We found the Majialou police station which said that it would help coordinate with funds. However since the morning till now, we still haven’t accessed medicine.”

I felt sorry. I didn’t know that they had already stopped the medicine by 8 this morning. I regretted the ten minutes hold-up, put away my camera and said, “Let’s go and find a doctor.”



We came to the first floor. ER doctor’s office. I asked the doctor, “Does this patient need urgent care?” The doctor followed us to the ward, and then touched the patient’s abdomen. Then he asked me, “Who are you?”

“I’m just a regular citizen,” I said.

“Then I won’t speak with you.”

“That’s fine, you speak with her family members about if she needs any treatment, or has any prerequisites.”

“I’ll prescribe treatment accordingly.”

“But we don’t have any money!” the patient’s older sister implored.

“Let’s go down and get medicine,” I quietly said. Fortunately, I had brought my bank card with me today.








The cost of the drugs that night totalled 850 yuan. It seemed as if the process was dragging on and on, and then we finally received the receipt. The older sister — typically resilient — suddenly knelt down on the ground and began to sob. I tried to help her up, thinking that I should have come earlier, that I should have come earlier. I had never, until that moment, known the worth of this money.

“Oh, Yao Jing, I know now, you don’t have to take the medical files.” The nurse looked at the item list, and then began to busily record it. At 10:15, the IV fluids finally began to slowly drip. The older sister brought over her child and knelt down again. This time, my eyes were the ones wet with tears.



They came as a family to Beijing to petition, because in 2006 the younger sister and her mother had been cheated by someone and were later severely beaten. However, the offender was only put on probation. The younger sister could not accept this and petitioned. In 2007, she received brain trauma after being beaten by Linyi officers stationed in Beijing, and was once sent to a mental institution. That time, she had been beaten by a Linyi officer in Majialou [located in Beijing] with the surname Li. That person’s hand was grabbed and broken by Yao Jing, which could have counted as evidence. Majialou’s police department was queried, but the family members didn’t dare hope that the offender would be found guilty. They only hoped to have medical treatment and be grateful for that.

On April 29, Linyi officers and a leader from Pingyi [a place in Shandong] came, but they only wanted to go to the hospital’s office. No one came in to see the patient.



The older sister went to get medicine. The mother then spoke of the family’s encounters. A few days before, on April 22, at the Phoenix Youth Hotel [a black jail], she saw a man get beaten unconscious by Linyi officers. His body was twitching all over and he urinated in his bed. Finally, he was sent to the hospital, and she doesn’t know if he lived or died. That was a very, very black jail. I’ve heard far too many similar stories. How could I not visit these black jails? The little suffering I experienced [there] could not compare to the suffering of my fellow citizens. In a society in which the privileged corrupt is a normality, these people have no social relevance. But they know the meaning of death. Persistent in their petitioning, they are society’s untouchables, my fellow citizens, and my brothers and sisters.

In the hallway, I suddenly heard a cry. One woman had been dragged away by 5 or 6 men. The nurse came in and said “Wait a bit. There’s a disturbance outside; don’t open the door.” Another man came and said, “Shut the door tightly.”

I and Qifang Cheng went into the hallway. There were two women, one after the other, who were being dragged towards the elevator by five or six men. I asked what had happened, and no one replied. As the elevator door closed, the woman cried out “China has no human rights!”




I asked again, “What happened?” Actually, I knew what had probably happened. The older sister was to my side and said, “I heard they are from Dongbei. They went to Tian’anmen and attempted suicide by poisoning themselves, and then were sent here. One of the receivers angrily asked me what I was doing here, and I replied that I was seeing a patient. “None of your business. Go.”

“Kidnapping! How is this not my business?” I said, “I should file a police report.”

It’s a pity my cell phone ran out of battery. One man from the Tongren Hospital came over to me and said, “I’m from Tongren Hospital’s Security Department. Keep to yourself, and mind your own business.”

In that brief moment, I finally exploded. I heard one loud, earth-shaking yell that ripped through space: “All … moral consciousness … has been lost! Do you know what that is? No … moral … consciousness! No … moral … consciousness!”

I was in a trance. I moved through the crowd, and the receivers also separated before me.






We came to the hospital ward. I instructed the older sister to call the doctor to bring over the medicine for the next day and the day after that, because I would not have the time to come back tomorrow. I told her to bring over the medical files and make several photocopies. In the case the doctor would not give the medicine, I would go and ask. For a little while, I dreamt up the following scenario: I would point a finger straight at the hospital director’s nose and say, “Damn it! Bring me the medical records!”


[…] I received a call from my friend Xiaoshu [prominent social commentator of the Southern Metropolis News] and said I was at the Tongren Hospital. He asked me if I had enough money, and I said that my card had a few thousand yuan. There shouldn’t have been a problem for these past two days.

It was still okay. The older sister brought back the medical files. However, the hospital would not prescribe medicine. They said that she had used up today’s prescription, so they would talk about filling tomorrow’s prescription later. I knew what this meant. They were hoping to have them quickly leave. I took out 200 yuan in cash that I had on me and put it down, and said “Tomorrow, I will come back.” The older sister wanted to write up an IOU, but I told her that it wasn’t necessary.

I told Qifang Cheng to definitely make a few photocopies of the medical record and safeguard them well. I said goodbye to them. I was walking alone along a bridge and had not even gotten to the Xizhimen subway stop when I suddenly began to bitterly weep. I called a cab, went home, knelt down, and then again began to cry. I thank the heavens for letting me come to this world and experience all of this. Then, I quietly stood up and began to write this story for my children, my grandchildren, and for later generations. I want to tell them what it means to suffer.

Xu Zhiyong, 4/30/2009 in the evening to 5/1/2009 in the early morning.




许志永 2009年4月30日夜5月1日凌晨

May 2, 2009 11:45 AM
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