The Petitioning Experience of a Letters and Visits Director
Wu Zongming, former director of the Letters and Visits office in Guiping of Guangxi Province, found himself resorting to petitioning channels when a project to create a shipping route went underway in 2007, forcing him and others to relocate. Excerpted from Xiaokang Magazine (《小康》杂志), and translated by CDT:
It was scorching hot in August 2009. Residents who had been forcibly relocated to temporary, crudely constructed shelter found the heat unbearable.
Talks with the local government over terms for relocation compensation were unsuccessful, and to this day, over 30 households have still not signed an agreement. In the end, however, they were evicted. In addition, since their residential conditions are fairly poor, there is no way to protect their basic living conditions.
Wu Zongming’s family is among those households. A little over a year ago, this former Guiping Letters and Visits director took to petitioning to safeguard his rights. “At times, I would think to myself that this was quite comical, that the head of Letters and Visits would petition.” Wu Zongming laughed at himself, “But aside from [petitioning], I really had no better recourse.”
During my interviews, [I found that] most people directed their anger toward the director of the company headquarters responsible for the demolition and eviction, Guiping city’s deputy director, and city director of Legislative affairs, Wang Jiawei.
Local residents gave me a signed and fingerprinted document: on the morning of 4/15/07, at the Guiping Second Line Ship Lock Project First Meeting, Wang Jiawei said: “As regards the the project’s land confiscation and relocation problem, you must sign [the document] at the headquarter’s determined time. Looking for a lawyer or a reporter is useless; we can overrule them. Any more ideas for compensation are just dreams.” “We’d rather give this money to the courts than to you. This project is under government contract; of course there should be some profit.”
On the afternoon of July 10, 2009, I went to the relocation and resettlement office headquarters during the relocation process to understand more about the situation and to ask Wang Jiawei for confirmation. Using “work is too busy; no time” as a reason, he declined my interview.
In July 2008, a leader at Guangxi Autonomous Region Communications Department stopped by Guiping to investigate the progress of Second Line Ship Lock’s project. Huang Yonghui [another evictee] thought it could be an opportunity to speak out about the situation, and so decided to wait at the Second Line Ship Lock’s roadside for the leader.
At that time, someone gave Huang Yonghui a call to let him know that there would be someone to meet him at the municipal construction office. “After we arrived, we found that there was [no one waiting]. We never imagined they would lure us like that.” Huang continued, “The construction office receptionist said that the leader was too busy, but that we could have the number to the communications office leader to speak about our situation.” However, they later discovered that the number was fake; the call would not go through.
After this, Wu Zongming and Huang Yonghui personally went to the regional communications office to petition and to look into the issue. This was their official start down the road of petitioning.
Is his petitioning really that “comical”? From a reasonable standpoint, Wu Zongming — aside from formerly holding the title of Director of Letters and Visits, he is still a normal citizen of the People’s Republic of China. His petitioning is just like a citizen within the system exercising the right to appeal, to accuse, to inform, and to exercise other constitutional rights. Essentially, this isn’t worth special attention.