A Beijing Petitioning Adventure of 40 Parents Who Lost Children

The following is an account of the heart-wrenching experience shared by 40 parents of missing children. After the Olympics and Paralympics had finished, they went to Beijing to petition for help to find their children. Written by one of the parents and translated by CDT via a blog post.

While the story is being spread quickly over the Net, it is also being censored by bloghosts and BBS sites with equal rapidity.

Over recent years, there have been countless cases of child smuggling across the country. We’ve been traveling all over the country looking for our children, selling our properties and belongings, and raking up huge amounts of debt in the process. Among the family members and relatives of these lost children, some have died, some have become mentally ill, some have fallen sick, and most have at least been psychologically exhausted.

Of course some of these cases could have been solved in a timely manner, but due to all kinds of human factors (I won’t elaborate here because of my concerns with the public security bureau), they only establish a case 24 hours after a child is reported missing. I think this facilitates the smugglers in that it gives them more time to transport the children away from the vicinities within that 24 hours. We reported these cases all the way up the government chain, but months passed without a single result. Some families gave up.

I posted bills across towns, on TVs and in newspapers and met with a lot of parents who shared the same fate online. I also learned that a Henan family sent a letter about their 8-month-old missing child through some channel to the premier Wen Jiabao. He made a note of this and within eight days, public security broke the case. With this last ray of hope, we decided to go together to Beijing in order to let the premier know about our pain. And in order to not affect the state image, we decided to travel to Beijing after the Olympics, and chose September 22.

On September 22, we checked into a cheap hostel and stayed mostly in the basement rooms with some really poor parents choosing to camp out at the train station. More than 40 of us, from 10 different provinces, went all the way to the Bird’s Nest the next morning and put up our posters and banners detailing our experiences. A college student learned about our cases and offered to help us with our petitioning. The scene also attracted an American reporter, but we refused to be interviewed as we feared bringing embarrassment to the government. Furthermore, we figured that CCTV, China’s premier media outlet, would be a better choice for our complaints.

With the guidance of the college student volunteer, we made our journey to the CCTV building, but soon realized that we were being trailed by who I guess were three state security agents, probably worried that we might be activists of some sort. At the entrance of CCTV, we were greeted by an armed policeman who asked us what our business was, which we told him. He said he would need to report to his boss but suggested that such a case would not fit with the “harmonious society” slogan. We understood this as meaning that we would have no chance to make our voice heard there. Then, one by one we unfurled our posters at the entrance. This prompted the guards to call the police. Three police cars soon arrived and started questioning us about the purpose of our trip. The college student asked all of us to return to the hostel, and offered to stay behind and deal with the police. Later we called and learned that he was released from the police station only after his school official made a trip to pick him up from the authorities.

We returned to the hostel but later decided to send three representatives to CCTV again to see whether we could get onto a program on the air. An old man told us diplomatically that the chances were very slim. We then made a trip to Wangfujing, where we ran into ABC and another foreign TV crew. Now without hope for domestic media coverage, we decided that we needed to talk to foreigners. However, these interviews weren’t so smooth either. The hostel owner got word from the police that we were talking to the foreign media and, under pressure, wouldn’t allow interviews on his premises. The police claimed that the hostel owner organized the interviews. Angered, the parents rushed out of the hostel to find another place to talk to the foreign media. After that, the police made a compromise that allowed that the interviews could be done there. All those who were at the interviews, reporters included, shed tears while hearing our stories.

On September 24, we left the hostel very early in the morning to go to the National Center for Petitions. Right upon leaving the hostel, a police car started following us. When we made our way to the Xidan area, eight more cars appeared with 80 policemen. They stopped us and asked for our IDs. A father lost his emotions and said that he was looking for his child. Right as he was about to get out his child’s photo from his backpack, a dozen or so policemen violently gripped his neck and grabbed his hair. The other parents were stunned. I went up to argue with the police but was soon myself snatched by the hair and dragged into a car. “You dare question the government?!” exclaimed one of the cops. At the detention center, our IDs were taken away and when I tried to snap a few photos of our cell, four policemen took my camera away and deleted all the photos on it. “We are the lords here,” one said.

In the afternoon, we were taken by two prisoner vans to a petition center of the Ministry of Public Security. All 40 parents were asked to attend a meeting and forced to write down a case on paper. After writing the materials, we were put on a coach bus and with the escort of four police cars, taken to somewhere in the suburbs.

The bus drove for half an hour and finally arrived at a petitioners reception center; we had no idea what we were here for. We were brought into a huge iron-clad hall with many guards, then went through security checks and had our cameras taken away. They yelled at us and told us to go to different rooms according to province. There were thousands of petitioners there — I think senior leaders wouldn’t need to go to the actual localities to learn about real life there; just making a trip here would do. I am from Hubei but I lost my child in Shenzhen so I went into the room of Guangdong, a cell with a small window for ventilation. I asked an old man, a 40-year-old petitioning veteran, why he was there. He said he had been asking for a redress for his treatment during the Cultural Revolution. There were screamings constantly in the rooms and local government attachés would regularly drag their “constituents” away from the center and deport them back home. I witnessed a 70-year-old lady get forcefully dragged away. I also heard that the guy who killed an American and then jumped off a building was also a petitioner. He had a case long unresolved and had resorted to extreme actions.

Four hours later, my “government” took me away and put me under 3-day house arrest at their gueshouse in Beijing. My ID was taken away again, and I was put under watch for 24 hours. I was also asked to write a commitment to ceast and desist petitioning. The director of the government attaché office in Beijing bought me a ticket to Shenzhen and saw me off at the train station.

Beijing used to be the seat of the emperor. We learned a big lesson from this trip. It’s fair to say that Beijing cops are the busiest in the country, and that their cars are seen everywhere. I never imagined that Beijing cops, who were always described on TV as civilized law enforcement, would treat parents of missing children with fists and kicks. I don’t understand how they could beat people like us, and I wonder what they would think if they had their own children missing. All of us parents are in great despair. We came to Beijing with hope but learned that it isn’t a place where one can reason. Where is such a place, then? Heaven?


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