The Long Road To Petition
Section 4. Chapter 13. Being Ignored.
October 1st, 1994 was the 45th anniversary of the People's Republic Of China. There were songs, laughter and the sounds of firecracker everywhere. But Wang Junbin who came from Wangying Village, Baimiao Town, Linquan County, Anhui Province remained indoors. The room was in Leeda Village, Liufu Town, Shenqiu County, Henan province. Although this was just a short distance away from his home village, he could not return there. His heart was cold to the zero-th degree, and he could really appreciate how Wu Zixu felt when all his hair turned white as he went through Zhaoguan in his flight.
Two months ago on July 30th, the Linquan Public Security Bureau issued a release titled "Urging the criminal elements Wang Junbin and others to surrender themselves". Even though Wang's name was spelt wrong, he knew that with the dissemination of the notice everywhere, he had lost his personal freedom as well as the ability to defend himself. He could no longer return to Linquan County to explain the injustices done to him because he would just be throwing himself into the trap with an obvious outcome. He was even more shocked when more than twenty days ago, after he contacted Wangying Village residents and took them through the obstructions to get on the northbound train to petition in Beijing, that the Linquan County Discipline Committee would issue "The Decision To Expel Wang Junbin From The Party."
He took the people to petition the upper echelon of the Party, with only the hope that the Party can fulfill the policies of the Party central and the Ministry of State to lighten the burden on the peasants. Yet the net result was that he was expelled from the Party! This was the most unexpected and the most painful thing for him. He never imagined that things would reach this stage. He painfully realized this: the peasants today faced not only the difficulty of the lack of material goods, but they are also suffering tremendous mental pressures. Although they have so many things that they want to tell, the paths of communication are not smooth and public opinion cannot be expressed in a normal fashion. No wonder that some peasants have been forced to take the bodies that have "stood up" and kneel themselves down in front of the high officials; some of them even throw themselves in front of the official cars at the risk of death in order to demand justice from the leadership.
When the Cultural Revolution ended, Wang Junbin was only six years old. He grew up during the sunny period of the new era without any worries. As part of his education, he was taught about reform, openness, democracy and the rule of law. When he was eighteen and not even graduated from high school, he heeded the call of the country and joined the army and learned the spirit of sacrifice of the army. So when he raised his right hand solemnly under the Party flag to take his oath to the Party, he knew that it was the duty of a Communist Party member to support the decisions of the Party and to defend the interests of the people. So Wang Junbin will not kneel down to anyone because he knows that his democratic rights were not granted by anyone; he would not risk death to stop the vehicle of some leader because he knows that he has lost everything except for this democratic rights.
He wanted to complain to someone.
Although he did not know which was the appropriate department which would protect his rights, he did not hesitate to begin writing down the words "Letter of Complaint" on the paper.
Although he realized that the subject of the complaint is usually the legal representative of a department and that a Party Secretary cannot possibly be a defendant, he did not care and he resolutely wrote down underneath "The Subject of the Complaint" the name of Zhang Xide. He believed that Linquan County Party Secretary Zhang Xide has an undeniable responsibility and an inglorious role in the ugly Baimiao incident.
Linquan County belongs to the Fuyang district that is nicknamed the Western Siberia district of Anhui province. It is a piece of land that has experienced the ravages of history including being flooded by the Yellow River several times before, leaving mud and sand behind and making it a famous yellow earth zone. Back then, when the army of Liu and Deng broke through the Yellow River natural defensive line to drive towards Dabieshan, this was where they blazed a bloody path to initiate the counterattack in the war of liberation. Today, the simple folks of Linquan are transforming their home earth with the labor of their hands. Due to the large population, tiny little Pingyuan County actually has more than 1.8 million people to claim the title of the Number One county in China; and due to the lack of transportation routes and the poverty of the land, this is a famous poor county.
Wang Junbin was born in Baimiao Town, the poorest town and the poorest village.
We walked over this piece of land six years later in the winter of 2001. The look of poverty left us with a deep impression. As we looked down, there was not a single village enterprise to be seen. The fields contained only scallions and white cabbage. For many years, the villagers have relied on the scallions and the white cabbage to subsist. Next to the village, there was one road that led outside of the province. By the roadside, there were mountains of scallions waiting for any passing driver to buy them on their way through. We asked for the price and we were shocked. One kilogram can be had for 6 cents, and a whole cart of scallions would only cost two to three yuan. The price for the white cabbage was better, but it only goes up to ten cents per kilogram. Even faced with such cheap vegetables, the farmers could not afford to eat them. When we entered the village, we saw a villager of about 30 years old eating in front of his door. There was only rice in his bowl and no vegetables. We asked him why he didn't eat any vegetables when they are so cheap. He said something that broke our hearts: "If I eat one kilogram, wouldn't I make ten cents less?"
Since Baimiao was so poor in 2001, it is easy to imagine what it was like six years ago. According to their explanation, the average annual income of the people Baimiao Town was only 274 yuan. So in this age, they made 80 cents each day. Do you know what that means? Even though they are poor to this degree, there are still all sorts of assessments, collectivization and penalties imposed upon these villagers, and most of them dared not complain about these devious methods.
On this day, Wang Junbin found Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao because he felt that someone had to represent everybody to say something fair. Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao were both active thinking young people in the village, especially Wang Hongchao who really detested people who support tax allocations.
Wang Hongchao's father-in-law was one of the smarter persons in the village and had good business acumen. Other than farming, he also went around the villages to sell rat poison. This was a low-capital business which generated a modest income. Wang Hongchao could see that farming alone was too hard so he followed his father-in-law around to sell rat poison. One day, Wang Hongchao was selling poison outside and the village branch party secretary Kao Jianjun came with the tax collection squad to go around to collect six yuan from each family for the "school construction fund." The school building in the village looked just fine and it was not in imminent danger of falling apart, so where did this "school construction fund" come from? Wang Hongchao's mother was at home at that time. She did not understand and she did not have six yuan, so she said, "Hongchao is not at home, so the money must be paid at a later date." Before she even finished, Kao Jianjun picked up the television set and left. When Wang's mother saw that, she followed and said: "There is no one home. How can you just take stuff? Is this right?" Because Kao Jianjun was a relative of Wang Hongchao, she did not think that Kao could do this after becoming the village branch party secretary. But Kao Jianjun did not even reply and kept walking.
When Wang Hongchao learned that the village branch party secretary took away his television set, he began to curse.
Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao talked and decided that they would go to the town and tell someone. At the time, they thought it was simple: since the Party had the policy to reduce the burden on peasants, then this policy would be implemented literally. Moreover, to tell the upper echelon about the conditions below is a legal right conferred to every citizen under the constitution.
So they went to see the town party secretary Han Chunseng. Wang Junbin was going to ask for help from the party as a member of the Communist Party.
They will remember that day forever: October 28th, 1992. On this day which they remember forever, in the office of the town party, they finally learned what is meant by "shirking responsibility", "confusing the issues" and "becoming indfferent to the feelings of the popular masses."
Since the town secretary Han Chunsheng decided that he didn't want to know, this only encouraged village branch party secretary Kao Jianjun. When he learned that Wang Hongchao had told the town officials that he took away the television set, he got mad. Not only did he not return the television set, but he barged into Wang's home again and took away a bicycle.
In order to seek payment for 6 yuan of "school construction fee", Kao not only took away a television set but he also took away a bicycle. This was obviously excessive and invoked public rage.
So more people came out and told Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao about evidence on how the cadres were collecting money through various assessments, collectivizations and penalties.
At Wang Hongchao's home, we saw three pieces of evidence on what the villagers had to face that year. One of them was a Peasant's Taxation Fee Card on which there was a big stamp of the Linquan County Baimiao Town People's Government. On the card, the number of hectares that was rented showed clear signs of alteration. It was 6.47 hectares originally, then it became 6.85 hectares; after erasure, it became 6.87 hectares. It goes without say that increasing the number of hectares is a way of raising the "agricultural tax", the "agricultural and forestry special tax", the "farm land usage tax" and other types of taxes.
The card also refers to "village surcharges" and "village funds" and this was also terribly confusing. Thee were two groups of 14 different "fees due." While the numbers were very detailed and exact, what was the basis? Why did the villagers have to pay so much? Nobody can say. Anyway, the fourteen items added up to a total of 93.1 yuan. That was what was written in the total box, but someone had crossed that out with red ink and wrote in 91.56 yuan instead for unexplained reasons.
On another card titled "Receipt for the Peasant's Fees" stamped by the Baimiao Town Zhaoying Village Committee, the surcharges and funds turned from 93.1 yuan to 91.47 yuan. It would seem that the amount got smaller and smaller, and the recipient also wrote on the blank space an eye-catching line: "This serves as the receipt in place of all other documents." That is to say, after adding the "due" taxes, this peasant family had to turn in 143.46 yuan.
Ironically, this peasant family also pulled about printed notice titled "Notice To Pay For Zhaoying Village Peasant Families" which ought to be superceded because according to the aforementioned document. This notice demanded a payment of 184.01 yuan. The "rented land" was increased to 6.88 hectares and the "due" taxes went from 48.89 yuan to 155.27 yuan!
One tax card, two different versions. One of them requireds the peasant villager to pay in full, not a cent less; another one said explicitly that it was to be shown to people from above who came to inspect. This was an unabashed and unconcealed way of hiding the truth from those above!
Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao now had all sorts of evidence offered by the villagers and this reaffirmed their desire to petition. Since the town wanted to protect the offenders, they had to go up another step in the hierarchy. So they went to the county.
They were surprised that they also encountered cold shoulders at the county.
So the three of them made up their minds that they would go see the county leader.
"We wanted to see Comrade Zhang Xide." They believed that the county party secretary was the highest leader of the party in the entire county, and he must therefore be most loyal to the party and he would not ignore this open defiance of the party policy to lighten tax burdens.
The comrade at the office raised his head impatiently to look at these three peasant-looking young men: "Do you know who Zhang Xide is?"
"The county party secretary!"
"Where do you come from?"
"Wangying village in Baimiao."
The other party said sarcastically: "You think that you can see the county party secretary so casually? You should see the Baimiao Town party committee and government to find a solution."
"But the town doesn't care."
"If they don't care, so you come to see the county party secretary? If all the villagers in the county are like those in Wangying who comes to see the county party secretary whenever they are not busy, how does the county party secretary find any time to do anything?"
The three were stunned.
Wang Xiangdong was the most impatient, and asked: "If the town doesn't care, who else are we supposed to see other than the county leader?"
The other party stood up and waved his arms like as if he was chasing a flock of ducks away. He yelled: "Go, go, go! We have work to do!"
Wang Hongchao was a bit more crafty and didn't say anything so far. He injected at that moment: "We want to see the county party secretary about the implementation of the policy to 'reduce burden'!"
"Whosoever refuse to implement it, that is whom you should see!"
"We want to see Secretary Zhang Xide!" Wang Hongchao did not speak loudly, but his tone was determined.
"Why is it not possible?"
"It is not possible because it is not possible!" The other party made it clear.
Wang Hongchao did not want to give up, so he asked calmly: "Is this how you treat the people?"
The other party said sarcastically: "You leave quickly! Otherwise, you won't even see this kind of attitude!"
When the three left the county building, their expressions looked terrible. When Wang Hongchao spoke of the moment when he got out of the county building, he said that he strongly felt that one of his most sacred feelings in this heart had been viciously violated. He was hurt deeply inside.
When they got back to the village, the villagers held a meeting. Everybody thought that the three people went to express their opinions and were ignored, so it would require everybody who was available to go together. So more than 300 peasants from Wangying Village left together in a total of more than ten vehicles and four tractor-trailers and headed towards the county seat.
Yet the large number of attendees did not help matters, because it only caused the county committee to become upset and accuse them of causing troubles.
After several setbacks, the villagers felt that the serious problem about the burden on the peasants cannot be resolved within Linquan County. There are three paths to follow: one, to proceed to the district; two, to proceed to the province; three, to go right to Beijing. Going to the district and the province was not very hopeful for some, because it was likely that there were too many connections between Linquan County and the district and province. While one cannot say that officials protect each other, it was entirely possible that the petition material may be sent downwards until they reached the exact same people who are being petitioned against. This was entirely possible, and such stories appeared often enough in newspapers, radio and television. In that case, this was a waste of time, energy as well as money.
Everybody was giving their opinions, but eventually the opinions converged. It was this: if we were going to do this, we might as well as approach the party central organization and the Ministry of State! Because the good policy of reducing the burden on the peasants came from the party central organization and the Ministry of State, therefore the party central organization and the Ministry of State must be closest to the hearts of the peasants!
Of course, everybody knew that it was risky business to petition across multiple levels. One stark fact was that to petition in Beijing about the problems in Baimiao Town and Wangying Village was objectively a complaint against Linquan County. At the very least, it implied that Linquan County had refused to implement the policy from the central government to reduce the burden on peasants. This was a black mark on the party and a disruption of the nation. Linquan County party secretary Zhang Xide will surely not concede so easily.
When the subject came to Zhang Xide, that was someone that people were familiar with from watching television: he was short-statured, he liked to wave his hands when he spoke; when he delivered reports, the speech must surely have been written by secretaries; he can speak well but as soon as he departed from the script, he sounded like an uncouth lout. At one meeting, in order to emphasize that family births must not exceed the quota, Zhang Xide waved his fist and babbled: "I would rather have seven 'grave heads' and not a single 'human head'!" This shocked everyone. This threatening bloody sentence received wide circulation, and caused all those who heard it to get scared.
In any case, it was going to be a difficult path to petition in Beijing. So who had the courage and know-how to undertake this task?
Everybody knew what the answer was, but nobody dared to speak up first. When it came to electing the representatives to go to Beijing, the villagers turned their hopeful eyes together towards Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao, the three young and educated men.
Section 4. Chapter 14. Feeling The Cold.
On the coldest day at the end of 1993, Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao made some simple preparations, carefully collected their evidence about the three types of improper conducts and then they got on the train to Beijing.
When the three stepped down on the train platform in Beijing for the first time, it was like as if a mistreated child had finally come back into the arms of the mother. They were very elated. They wanted to see the Tienanmen Square and the People's Great Hall that they have dreamt about, they wanted to see the glorious monument to the People's Heroes, and they wanted to see the bridges and the red wall of Zhongnanhai. But they also knew that it had not been easy for everybody to come up with the money for this petition trip and they needed to spend every dime and cent on the truly important things.
When they got onto the streets of Beijing, they asked about where the petition offices for the Party Central and the Ministry of State were.
At the National Petition Office, they were greeted warmly. They did not expect things to go so smoothly, so they were surprised. The receiving comrades listened to their words attentively, they asked questions and they promised to sent letters to the Anhui department quickly to investigate this matter.
The cold weather in Beijing was something that they had never encountered before. The cold and bitter wind came straight at the face and chilled them to their bones. But the hearts of these three people felt as if they were holding up burning ovens inside which warmed them up.
Wang Hongchoa said, "Since we are here already, we should go to all the places that we can so as not to waste the trip."
So the three of them asked around and got to the National Agricultural Department.
At the reception station of the National Agricultural Department, the three of them felt as warm and friendly as if they had returned home. The comrade at the reception listened to their problem, looked at their evidence and then gave an opinion: the ways of Baimiao Town and Wangying Village were wrong. He also gave them letters of introduction and told them to go back to Anhui province and take the letter to a certain unit in within the Provincial Agricultural Committee. The letter of introduction was the kind that was pre-printed, so that all that was required is to summarize the contents of the petitions. He wrote down his thoughts in very direct terms: "This method of collection is contrary to the policy of reducing the burden on peasants as stipulated by the central government and the Ministry of State." At the end, the standard line was: "This is referred to your office, so please take care of it." But this time, an additional line was written: "This is referred to your office, please investigate seriously."
When the comrade at the reception showed them out the door, he also gave him a booklet titled "The Administration Procedure For Reducing The Burden On Peasants." As they departed, he also said: "They can issue any orders from above, but if the people at the bottom insist of fouling things up, then it is unacceptable.!"
This sentence warmed the hearts of the three people.
Yes, the weather in Beijing was much colder than their home town. There did not appear to be any wind and the trees were stationary, but the biting cold could still be felt strongly. On the train going back south, the temperature rose back up noticeably, but they felt as if they were heading to a cold place. When they thought of Linquan, Baimiao and Wangying, they were nervous and a coldness crept into their hearts.
Under normal circumstances, the closer to home, the more intimate it should feel. But they did not feel that way. On the contrary, after this Beijing trip, they felt alienated from their home town. The closer to their homes, the less confidence they had. Moreover, there was an indescribable sense of sadness and fear that was gnawing at their hearts.
Although they were immersed with incomparable emotions every day that they were in Beijing, the odd thing was that there was also a strange sort of sourness that emerged unexpectedly at moments to disrupt their euphoria. At that time, the three of them could not explain how this strange feeling came about. But at this moment when the train was leaving Beijing far behind, they finally understood: although Beijing was good, it did not belong to them. They were people from Linquan County Baimiao Town, their fates were more in the hands of the Part Secretary of Linquan County, or even just in the hands of certain individuals in Wangying Village, Baimiao Town.
They still belonged in the power magnetic field of Baimiao Town in Linquan County and even if they escaped to a thousand miles away, they still cannot escape the fate of being at the mercy of others!
After crossing the Yellow River, the three had nothing more to say. They were unable to sleep. Through the entire night, they just sat there, seemingly not thinking about anything and just listening to the fluctuating clanking of the wheels of the train. In the still of the night, the sound rocked them to their hearts.
When daybreak came, the three of them finally got sleepy, but then they had already arrived at the Anhui provincial capital of Hefei.
When they got off the train, they did not rest. They followed the address listed in the letter of introduction from the Agricultural Department and they went to the office of the group that directed the task of relieving the burden on peasants in Anhui province.
The comrade in charge of burden relief listened to their description carefully. He paid attention and he felt that there was a serious problem. He then wrote a very clear letter and wanted them to personally hand it over to Linquan County so as to lighten their burden:
I received the petitioners from Baimiao Town referred to us by the Agricultural Department. Based upon the information provided, there is a problem about excessive burden. Based upon the feedback, this problem was presented by them many times to the higher government, but there it has never been concretely solved and therefore caused the masses to express their opinions. I am providing you with the Agricultural Department's opinion as well as the relevant materials. I hope that you will send someone to investigate and clear up the matter as quickly as possible. If there exists problems about overburdening the masses, you must insist on refunding as compensation.
Please report back your results in a timely manner.
You have been so notified accordingly.
In order to be absolutely sure, the comrade responsible for burden relief stamped the document with an official stamp. As they were leaving, they also gave the three men a document that contained the materials prepared by themselves in relation to the various regulations issued by the central government on relieving the burden on peasants.
When the three left the Agricultural Building, they felt the same elation and emotions that rushed into their chests as in Beijing. Wang Hongchao looked back instinctively at the old and worn-down building, and felt a deep sense of gratitude.
While they were in Hefei, they also visited the Provincial Disciplinary Committee. The reception comrade at the Provincial Disciplinary Committee paid attention to their case, and told them that they can go back with worry because they will follow up on the matter.
On January 25th, 1994, Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao entered the Linquan County Committee Office once again. They showed the letters from the National Agricultural Department and the Anhui Province Burden Relief Office. This time, no one harassed them.
It was clear that the Linquan County Committee had already receiving an official letter from the National Petition Office. Linquan County Party Secretary Zhang Xide learned that the peasant representatives from Baimiao Town Wangying Village had complained to Beijing. He came out with a smile on his face, and wrote out a notice immediately to the Baimiao Town Party Committee and Government. It read: "The masses at Wangying Village have petitioned for the return of their overdrawn money. Please work hard to make sure that the overdrawn money be returned in full quickly to the masses."
When the three received the note from the Committee Party Secretary, they looked at it carefully. The characters were written sloppily and some of the words were not written properly, so they had to stare at it for some time because they could not figure what was on it. But then they were perplexed. "Overdrawn money?" What kind of concept is that? As a Party leader, why can't they like act just like the party central or government organizations or the provincial burden relief office to point out the importance of this case? If he made up his mind to get the town to take care of the problem, why didn't he go through official channels instead of just scribbling a note on a piece of white paper? Moreover, during the "petition" process, they had come to see the County Committee, who just acted as if they were deaf and dumb. But now, since the order is coming down from above, they are "greeting with smiling faces." If this is how they were doing to do it, then why did they do the opposite at first?
Between October 28th, 1993 when they left for the petition to January 25th, 1994 when the County Party Secretary "signed and stamped" the note, a total of 89 days had elapsed until the resolution. When the villagers heard that Party Secretary promised that the "overdrawn money will be returned in full," the entire village was boiling with enthusiasm.
It was possible to imagine how Baimiao Town Party Secretary Han Chunsheng and Mayor Ma Chun felt when they saw the handwritten instruction from Zhang Xide. They obviously knew the nature of this business. It went without say that things had gotten to this stage because they had forwarded some money to the County Party Committee and the County Government. But all the villagers got was a note written on a piece of white paper. They studied the note carefully, and they can tell from Zhang Xide's sentence "The masses at Wangying Village have petitioned for the return of their overdrawn money" that there was a sense of displeasure. From the "Please work hard" sentence, they could also detect the unwillingness of the Party Secretary.
It was impossible for Baimiao Town not to solve the problem about the burden on the peasants. At this time, the County Disciplinary Committee formed an investigation group under the prompting of the District Disciplinary Committee to go to Baimiao Town to look at the matter of burden relief. Actually, as soon as they looked into it, many of the problems became obvious. The County Disciplinary Committee investigation group took one look at the 1993 accounts at the town- and village-levels and immediately discovered peasant burden problems totaling more than 110,000 yuan. The Wangying Village representative assisted in the self-audit of the village finances, and discovered that the village finances were in a mess. Not only were expenses loosely accounted for, but there were a lot of inexplicable receipts. The village was also found to transfer money about, and the problems about the assessments and allocations were very severe. For example, in the transfer of funds between the village and the town on the same form titled 1993 Autumn Fund Transfer, there were 47,650 yuan originally but it became only 33,760.46 yuan after the transfer with a total of 13,993.54 yuan missing.
The theft of public funds by the town and village cadres caused the Wangying Village residents to become very angry. But from the day that the County Party Secretary wrote the note to the village representatives, the village administration only gave back a tiny amount after a total of 62 days. Furthermore, two things happened during this period that caused a great deal of uneasiness among the villagers. For one thing, petition leader Wang Junbin had always been employed by the Town Land Management Department but his employment was terminated; the other thing was that Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao were notified by the town to pick up the "settled accounts", but as soon as they entered the Town government building, they were set upon and beaten by the personnel.
The promise to refund was just a feint when revenge was where the real action was. Wangying Village could not bear it anymore, and once again, they formed a group of several hundred people to go to the county seat and demanded Secretary Zhang Xide to fulfill the promise that he gave to everybody.
But the villagers had really simplified the problem, and they really didn't understand the people who we call our 'parental-figure' cadre leaders. Among them, many of them have been spoiled rotten. They are used to having people supporting them, cheering them and obeying orders.
When Zhang Xide saw the many villagers speaking to him in an accusatory tone, he switched moods and he no longer wanted to talk about the matter of returning the money that was excessive burden on the peasants. He looked very severe and mean: "If you think you can, you just go ahead and stir things up. I am not going to take care of this for you!"
The villagers asked: "Does this fit the spirit of the document of the central government?"
Zhang Xide replied angrily: "If you think you can, you just go ahead and tell them up there!"
When the villagers heard that, they were confused: to carry out the Party's policy to reduce burden is the undeniable duty of the Linquan County committee. But the County Committee did not want to know or act, and that was why they went up there. The higher-ups have indicated that they cared, but the County Committee still refused to solve the problem and they even blamed the peasants for causing trouble. Of course, the villagers found this unacceptable and demanded county secretary Zhang Xide to carry out the central government's policy for burden relief.
Zhang Xide lost his patience and yelled out loudly: "You just go ahead and stir things up! The worst the better, so I can deal with it easier!"
The villagers had no choice now but to go and see the County Disciplinary Committee. The Country Disciplinary Committee had sent out an investigation team and they found out that there were many problems with accounting at Baimiao Town and Wangying Village. But when the Disciplinary Committee Secretary Li Shucheng heard that the people underneath were not returning the money, he only said helplessly: "I told them to return the money and they don't. What can I do?"
A Party secretary who was in charge of enforcing party discipline in the whole county somehow felt impotent about the misdeeds of those underneath him; and the County Committee Secretary in charge of the entire operation was quite unreasonable and unhelpful. The villagers found it hard to understand, and they were also angry.
By this time, the representatives of the villagers of Wangying Village had enough experience to keep their cool. Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao had made a resolution that was the biggest in their lives: they will never give up their fight against these people who defy the policies of the party, and they will never quit until they achieve their goals!
Of course, what did the resolve of these three people, or the resolve of 300 or even 3,000 villagers, and the truth that they believe in their hearts mean in the face of the powerful structure that was formed over several thousand years of Chinese history and a society that adores power today?
Perhaps they were too young, and they didn't know what the "Cultural Revolution" or "Class Struggle" was, and they did not think through this matter seriously enough. Sixteen years ago, in the Eleventh Party Congress, we had already abandoned the ultra-leftist idea of basing "class struggle" as the principle. But in Linquan and in Baimiao, there were still many cadres who still sub-consciously believed that "class struggle" always worked and they stuck to the old ways when they dealt with problems.
Upon returning from the country seat, Wang Hongchao received a piece of news that would send shivers in all the villagers. This piece of news came from Shi Shanzhou, who was a director in with the Baimiao Village police. Wang Hongchao and Shi Shanzhou were good personal friends. On March 30th, Shi Shanzhou took Wang Hongchao to the side and told him quietly: "You should not get involved in the petition." He then warned him: "They are going to arrest people immediately!"
When Wang Hongchao heard that, he was shocked. He knew that director Shi Shanzhou was not joking with him, nor was he trying to scare him. So he immediately forwarded the news to Wang Xiangdong and Wang Junbin.
Wang Xiangdong and Wang Junbin did not know whether to believe this or not, but they immediately told all the villagers about it.
At that moment, Wangying Village was covered by an indescribable terror.
The villagers began to organize patrols, and Wang Hongchao even moved the loudspeaker system of the village into his own courtyard.
Although the villagers were mentally prepared, they did not expect that the day of "arrests" would arrive so quickly.
Section 4. Chapter 15. The Sky Is High And The Emperor Is Faraway
On the night of April 2, 1994, past 11 o'clock, it may have been early in a city with nightlife, but in the remote Wangying Village, most of the villagers have all turned off the lights and gone to bed. At that moment, a van entered into the village quietly.
The van came to a silent stop at the west end of the village, and five people came out. Afterwards, it was learned that they were respectively Shi Shanzhou from the Baimiao Town police station, civil policemen Wang Shuquei and Zhang Fuchun and safety patrol members Wang Chu and Liu Kai. After whispering to each other, the five of them entered the village stealthily.
Their appearance immediately aroused the attention of the patrolling villagers who followed them. It was observed that they were checking out the homes of the leaders who led the petition, even trying to see if they can push the doors in to enter. This caused the patrolling villagers to become concerned and they raced over to knock on Wang Hongchou's door while yelling: "There are people sneaking around the village!"
Wang Hongchou's sister-in-law Li Li happened to be staying at Wang Hongchou's house. The knocking on the door woke her up and she got out of bed. When she heard that there were people sneaking around the village, she rushed to the room where the public address equipment was set up and she opened up the microphone to say: "There are thieves in Wangying! The young and old men of Wangying -- if you have a pitchfork, grab the pitchfork; if you have a stick, grab the stick. Do not let them get away!"
The dark and quiet night was shattered by the sudden trumpet sound of the public address system. The whole village was awake. When the villagers heard that there were thieves, they jumped out of bed, put on their clothes, grab their equipment and raced outside the door.
The sudden sound of trumpet scared the two safety patrol members, who realized that their secret mission has been discovered. They knew that the villagers hated safety patrol members who tote along to do bad things and called them "traitors". If they were caught by the villagers, the public security officers may get off easy but the safety patrol members would get a tough time. So they bolted like scared rabbits. The police director Shi Shanzhou heard the sound and also realized that things have gone wrong. He did not even think about the car at the head of the village, because he just turned around and ran out of the village in the dark.
The civil policemen Wang Shuquei and Zhang Fuchun and the driver Zhao Shanlung were unable to evade, and they were separately surrounded by the villagers.
The villagers asked them in loud voices: "Where do you come from? What are you doing?"
One civil policeman said: "We are from Yadian ..."
The other civil policeman said: "We are from ... Huang Ling."
But the driver said: "We are from the silk factory in the city. I came with the factory director to see someone in your village about business."
Three people told three different stories, which naturally aroused the villagers' suspicions even further.
Wangying Village sits right on the boundary between Anhui and Henan provinces. Wangying Village Elementary School's principal Wang Tienji lived on the western end of the village, and the little path outside his house marks the boundary between Shenyao County of Henan Province and Linquan County of Anhui Province. It has been said that if Principal Wang's child were to step outside the door to urinate, both counties in both provinces would receive the moisture. In this remote but strategically placed location, the villagers cannot help but be suspicious about three unidentified people with three completely different explanations, including two who wore police uniforms. They suspected that these people were taking advantage of the locale and pretending to be policemen in order to commit robbery.
The villagers demanded that the three should provide identification. Immediately the three got very nervous and they attempted to flee. As soon as they started running, the villagers thought that the matter was getting more serious and these people must not be permitted to flee.
Although the three were running for their lives, they were not familiar with the village geography and it soon became apparent that they could not get away. So one of those in police uniform turned around, stood still, pulled out his gun and aimed at the pursuing villagers. He yelled: "Don't move! If you pursue any further, I am going to shoot!"
The villagers stopped for a moment at this sudden development.
When the other two saw that the villagers had stopped, they also stopped.
But there were too many villagers and they were not afraid of the gun. Instead, they were now convinced that these were robbers. The situation was quite clear: if they claimed to be from the "silk factory in town" coming to "talk business" at Wangying, then why did they pull out a gun? If they are really civil policemen, then why do they claim to be from the "silk factory in town"? Besides, why won't they just show their identification openly? And if they wanted to leave, then why would they abandon their vehicle?
The villagers looked at the driver and asked: "What are you really doing?"
The driver hesitated and did not dare to speak.
The villagers now had no more doubts. They protected themselves first by rushing to disarm the guns that were threatening them. They were convinced now that the guns as well as the uniforms were counterfeit. Then the villagers administered a beating to the people that they were convinced were robbers.
Only after receiving the punishment did the driver Zhao Shanlung tell the truth: "They are really policemen from the police station. They rented my car for ten yuan and a pack of Daojiang cigarettes, and told me to help them arrest people."
The driver then immediately reached into his pocket to pull out the 10 yuan note and a pack of cigarettes, and he implored the villagers to let him go.
When the villagers heard that they were really policemen who have come to arrest people, they interrogated Wang Shuquei and Zhang Fuchun. The two had to be honest now: "We are from the police station at Baimiao Town."
When the villagers heard that, they got angry.
"What is the basis for your coming here to arrest the petition representatives?"
"If you are going to arrest people, why do you have to so sneaky?"
"Since you are really from the Baimiao Town police station, why do you have to say that you are from 'Yadian' or 'Huangling' or from the 'silk factory in town'? Why do you start running as soon as we ask questions?"
The two were at a loss for words.
It was obvious that the villagers would not let them off: "Speak!"
One of them whispered: "We are here to arrest gamblers."
But the other said: "We are on patrol here."
After saying that, the situation got worse. If they were looking for gamblers, then why were they only poking around the homes of the village representatives; if they were on patrol, then they were lying openly. From the day that Wangying Village was liberated forty-five years ago, none of the people in Wangying Village had ever seen a member of the police coming down to patrol in the village. They didn't patrol before, but they would do so only after the town refunded a small amount of the money that represented excessive burden to the peasants. And then they 'patrolled' right to the doors of the village representatives in the middle of the night?
When the villagers heard that, they got angrier: "If you are on patrol, why are you not in a police car?"
At this moment, some of the villagers realized that these people were intoxicated with alcohol. The villagers never held good opinions about the various members from the police station. Sometimes, the police would work together with the criminal elements to commit bad deeds. In order to make sure that these three do not misbehave under the influence of alcohol, the villagers took away their guns and handcuffs. Since they found four pairs of handcuffs, they realized that what the driver said must be true: they were heard to arrest the petition representatives from the village. They wanted to arrest four people: Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong, Wang Hongchao plus Wang Hongying.
"When our villager representatives got beaten, you didn't see anything. When the people petition for implementation of the central government's policies, you come in the middle of the night to arrest people. How do you deserve to be called the 'people's police'?"
The villagers got really angry, and they smashed the rented car.
This was the 4/2 incident that the Linquan Committee would seize on later to create all sorts of issues.
The civil policeman Zhang Fuchun, who was described as the Big Guy by villager Wang Laizi, admitted with regret under the interrogation of Wang Laizi: "We did not expect you to be prepared. Wang Shuquei and I were drinking, so we ended up in this shape."
He admitted that he was drinking at Wang Tienyu's place. Now Wang Tienyu was someone in Wangying village who had special relationships with the people at the county level. The strange thing was that in a letter from the villagers of Wangying Village to the party central and the Ministry of State, they especially pointed out that a small number of villagers were worked up for a good reason: in the chaos, "villager Wang Tianyu and the village cadres led the villagers to rush up, smash the car, beat the people and confiscate the guns." Wang Tienyu appeared in the two critical events! Perhaps this is revealing the deep background of the 4/2 incident.
In any case, civil policeman Wang Shuquei and the 'rented' driver Zhao Shanlung ran out of the village in ignominy. The Big Guy Zhang Fuchun, who was said to be "injured severely", was no longer inebriated and was the first to run away, and even the younger villagers could not catch him. Later, the villager Wang Hongchun took the guns, bullets and handcuffs left behind by the civil police and turned them over to the village militia leader Wang Dongliang. This is a Wangying villager who was sleeping in the village that night. Afterwards, the villagers slowly dispersed and went home to sleep. But they did not imagine that when County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide found out about the incident, this incident would be turned into a completely different matter. Although the three public security officers from Baimiao Town and the two safety patrol members had safely returned and the guns, bullets and handcuffs were also returned, the Linquan Committee Secretary misrepresented the situation to the local committee, and began a bloody suppression action against Wangying Village on the morning of April 3rd in the name of "rescuing the police and searching for the guns."
At around 10am on April 3rd, 2004, more than 100 public security officers and armed policemen departed from the county seat in eight police vehicles. The vehicles were armed with machine guns, and the policemen wore steel helmets and bullet-proof vests and were equipped with riot shields and sticks. They headed towards Wangying Village with sirens blaring.
When this modernized armed force arrived at Wangying Village, they issued a warning first. They used a loudspeaker to announce: "The villagers of Wangying Village must stay inside." This was obviously not a smart move because they forgot about the unique geographical position of Wangying Village. As soon as the announcement was made, the villagers started running towards the end of the village which was in Henan Province. By the time the police cars entered the village, most of the adults and children had run away already.
But of course not everyone ran away. But those who remained were either old people, or people who did not participate in the petition, or relatives visiting from other places. These people believed that the matter did not concern them. There were even some who joined the petition, but they thought that they only followed the crowd and that nothing untoward would happen to them.
But as soon as the police entered the village, they began beating everyone that they came across. They even beat up an elementary school student who came from another village to visit a relative. There were the sounds of punching and kicking, objects being broken, grown-ups begging for mercy, children crying, chickens clucking, dogs yelping and pigs squealing.
Wang Hongchao's wife Zhou Min did not participate in the petition, but the police grabbed her. Seventy-something-year-old Wang Hongbin was standing on the side and said: "You should only arrest whomever you are supposed to. This female comrade did not participate in anything, so why are you arresting her?" Even before he finished, an electric baton smashed into his face and he fell to the ground, bloodied and unconscious.
Old man Wang Rongsun was scared silly. He just stood motionless on the sideline. But several policemen beat him until he started to cough blood, and then they hauled him into the police car.
There was no doubt that the homes of the petition representatives became the foci of the search and destruction mission. All the pots, pans and bowls in their households were smashed, and even the chimneys over the ovens were destroyed. Wang Hongyin's twenty silver pieces, Wang Xiangdong's several hundred something yuan in cash and Wang Hongchao's record player all disappeared. The most incredible part was that not only did they smashed Wang Hongchao's home, but they took the four boxes of 8,000 rat poison dosages, poured the contents into his maize storage silo and stirred the mixture with shovels before they left.
On April 3, twelve people were arrested. Most of them are old people and females who participated in the petition or were connected to the 4/2 incident, plus a female who was staying with relatives in the villages and a student from Henan province.
About this absurd and bloody suppression, the Linquan Committee Working Group publicized in "An Open Letter to the masses of Wangying Village." "The local committee secretary Qin Deming pointed out that the reaction to the 4/2 incident was appropriate. There should not any dispute and this is certain. The county committee gave careful consideration and acted according to the law." The letter also added: "On this subject, the National Petition Office, the provincial and the local authorities have all given their approval."
Seven years after this incident, we interviewed Wang Yongming. Wang Yongming is on the village committee in Wangying Village, and he was totally unconnected to the petition campaign by the villagers. When the police cars entered the village, he was working in the pig sty and he had no intention of running away. When he saw the police charging in, he thought that they could have arrested the whole village and it wouldn't be his turn. So he tended to his pig sty.
A military policeman pointed to him and asked a bunch of police officers: "Should this one be arrested?"
One police officer said: "Arrest him!"
That military policeman rushed over immediately, and hauled him over to the police car.
Wang Yongming had never seen anything like that, so he was in shock.
At the Baimiao Town police station, he and all the other arrestees were tied up with ropes. His watch had mysteriously vanished by now. Now he was beaten for more than hour for no reason. He witnessed the police pour hot water on the head of Wang Hongyan until he screamed out in what was no longer a human voice. At that time, Wang Yongming was scared silly and did not dare say anything.
When they were brought over to the Linquan County detention house, they were beaten as soon as they got out of the vehicle. The guards used whips made from high-power cables to lash them until the guards exhausted themselves. Then they put leg shackles on everyone, while asking them to come up with seven yuan to pay for the use of the equipment. The leg shackles weighed about ten pounds. The prisoners were ordered to run around the courtyard three times with the leg shackles, and they were beaten if they failed to complete the task.
That night, they were all put into the prison cell. Each cell had a hole at the top. The guard at the top ordered Wang Yongming to stick his hand out. Wang Yongming did not understand what the guard wanted, but he did not dare refuse. As soon he put his right hand through, a big boot stepped on this hand immediately. But he dared not withdraw his hand because he was afraid of even worse punishment. So he stood there with his hand hurting again and again until the police got tired of letting off his anger and only then did Wang withdraw his hand.
Two days later, Wang Yongming was sent to be locked up with the prisoners on death row. The prisoners who have no hope left took it out on Wang Yongming. They just rushed over, they ripped into him, they punched him, they pulled his hair, they beat his head but the police pretended that they didn't see anything. The death row prisoners only stopped when Wang rolled down on the floor and begged them to stop.
Wang Yongming was locked up for eight days. When he was released, they did not give him any "explanation". Instead, they demanded him to pay for his eight days' stay. As he walked out of the detention house, he was warned: "Watch what you say after you get out!"
More than seven years have passed, but the two feet of Wang Yongming still bear the clearly visible scars made by the leg shackles ...
Section 4. Chapter 16. It Is A Crime To Petition
Most of the villagers were able to avoid arrest by escaping to the Henan side, but none of them dared to go back to Wangying Village. More than 1,000 villagers were exiled. At night, they slept in the wilderness between Henan and Anhui provinces in their clothes. If there was any rumor, they would run scared in the direction of Henan again. Even those who could summon up the courage to see their homes, they must do so stealthily like thieves. It goes without say that their farm work was forsaken, and even the assets that they acquired after the reform were stolen by the looters. Many peasant families suffered great losses.
The village representatives Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong, Wang Hongzhou and Wang Hongyin escaped to Zhenyqiu County and finally met together in Liufu Town. They found out that the spies from the public security bureau in Linquan County of Anhui Province were even present in this little town outside of their province.
The four people felt that they had no choice. As the village representatives, they needed to report the truth about the "Baimiao incident" in Linquan County of Anhui Province as quickly as possible to the central government.
On this day, Wang Junbin stayed behind while the others helped Wang Xiangdong, Wang Hongchao and Wang Hongyin to avoid the eyes of the spies from the Linquan County public security bureau and board a public bus to travel to Henan Province's Shenqiu County seat. From there, they went to Zhengzhou, where they boarded the train to Beijing.
This was the second time that Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao visited Beijing, so they can be said to know their way. After they got off the train, they headed straight for the reception station of the National Petition Office located outside Yongding Gate. But within half an hour, they were arrested by the policemen from the Linquan County public security bureau who were waiting there for them.
The reason that they were arrested publicly was that these three people robbed two May 4th model handguns and fifteen bullets during the 4/2 anti-revolutionary riot, and they had intended to create an even bigger political incident in Beijing!
The three protested loudly that this was foul play and a shameless frame-up, but even if they can have all the words in the world to say, it was a waste of time in front of the well-scripted policemen.
The three were escorted back to Anhui, where they were not held in Linquan province. Instead, they were send to Linquan County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide's old base of Taihuo County.
When Wang Hongchao thinks back to the two months in which he was imprisoned in Taihuo County, he is still quite emotional. Those days were too terrible and painful, and he will never forget it in his lifetime. There, their hands were cuffed behind their backs 24 hours a day. When they ate, they could not reach for the bowls with the hands behind their backs and they could not use chopsticks. Instead, they had to crouch on the ground like pigs or dogs to lick and chew. When they had to relieve themselves, they had to bow over and use the cuffed hands behind their backs to pull down their trousers and it was impossible to wipe their asses. When they slept, they could only lie down sideways. They had nightmares every night. When they woke up, their bodies were drenched in cold sweat.
This type of inhumane treatment was meant to torture the soul. Therefore, all self-respect was taken away in order to turn people into obedient dogs; people also turned into wolves which tore each other up until they were bloodied.
It should be said that Wang Hongchao was not unfamiliar with scenes of severe torture. He had seen them before -- in movies, on television and in novels. But the people who did these sorts of terrible things are either murderous bandits, Kuomingtang spies, inhumane Japanese soldiers or Germany fascists. He never dreamed that this could occur in a socialist country at a time when the people were supposed to be in charge and that those who committed these acts would be the People's police! And all of these things took place inside the place of a Communist Party law enforcement organization!
This was difficult for him to accept. He felt pain, sadness and despair.
Then Linquan County Political Consultative Committee vice-chairman Yu Guangxuan stood up.
When he learned the truth about the 4/2 incident -- especially when the Linquan County public security bureau had made up lies to arrest the petitioning peasants right in front of the reception office of the National Petition Office in Beijing -- he could no longer hold back his inner anger. He determined that he would write Party Chairman Jiang Zemin directly to reveal how the Linquan County committee had failed to implement the party central and the Ministry of State's policies to lessen the burden on the peasants and then cruelly punished the petitioning peasant masses.
On a Sunday, Yu took the time and trouble to visit the telecommunications postal office in Xincai County in Henan province. He sent a long telegram to Chairman Jiang Zemin. The cost of this telegram cost him two months of living expenses for his entire family.
He made a detailed report of what he found out about the truth of the 4/2 incident, and he clearly indicated his own views.
The comrade who worked at the telecommunications postal office understood the nature of this telegram, and she also knew why this person traveled all the way to another province to send this telegram. But since the telegram reflected something outside of Henan province and was definitely nothing about Xincai County, so she just sent it along.
Yu Guangxuan's telegram was transmitted on that day from the Henan Province Xinchai Postal Office to Beijing.
But Yu Guangxuan never imagined that this document would be sent back down through various levels of the bureaucracy and that it would wound up in the hands of Linquan County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide.
Zhang Xide was furious.
He ordered the public security bureau to begin an investigation immediately to identify the person who communicated the truth about the "Baimiao incident" to the central leadership.
The public security bureau people were quite perplexed. When Yu Guangxuan sent the telegram, he already considered the possibility of such an outcome. So when he signed the telegram, he did not put down his real name. Instead, he used the name of the arrested Wangyuan Village villager Wang Hongying identified as a "former Wangying Village cadre." This gives the document a certain credibility when it came out, but at the same time it created some mystery for those who were trying to figure out who the sender was.
The Linquan County public security bureau had already arrested Wang Hongying in Beijing, and he was being detained with Wang Xiangdon and Wang Hongchao in Taihuo County and had to eat, drink, sleep and relieve himself with hands cuffed behind him. There was no way that he could escape from underneath the eyes of the guards and then go to Xincai County in Henan province to send a telegram. Thus, although the telegram carried the name of Wang Hongyin, he was immediately eliminated as a possibility. So the public security bureau started to pursue the "Wangying Village retired cadre." They went though all of Wangying Village and could not find a single "retired cadre," but in the end their attention turned to a retired worker Wang Hongzhang who used to work in a nationally owned sales/distributorship and has returned to live in the village.
Although "retired worker" and "retired cadre" are completely different things, the Linquan County public security bureau still concluded that Wang Hongzhang did it. On that day, the company notified Wang Hongzhang to come back to the unit to collect wages. Since he had not been paid for some time, Wang Hongzhang was very happy to hear the news and went immediately to the County Seat. But as soon as he entered the office, he was tackled by the public security officers. Since Wang Hongzhang was totally ignorant of the matter of the telegram, he insisted that he didn't know even after the beating. The public security officers were not satisfied with his response. They insisted that he was the ring leader, so they kept torturing him.
Meanwhile, Wang Hongbin who was hit by a police officer with an electric baton just for speaking on behalf of his sister-in-law Zhou Ming was still confined to bed. Wang Hongzhang had suddenly been arrested for no reason; Wang Hongbin and Wang Hongzhang are both brothers of Wang Hongling. Zhou Ming is the wife of Wang Hongling and she was thrown in jail, shackled and mistreated. Every one of these events happened to people around Wang Hongling until he stood up and gave up on his intention to live a peaceful and quiet life.
Prior to that, Wang Hongling worked at a brass pipe factory in Liufu Town, Shenqiu County, Henan Province. He had a good income of more than 1,000 yuan a month. At this time, he quit his job at the brass pipe factory in order to obtain justice for the villagers of Wangying Village! On June 18th, he and village representative Wang Junbin broke through the screens set up by the Linquan authorities inside and outside of Anhui province and they led fifty-six villagers to arrive in Beijing.
The fact that Wangying Village traveled en masse to petition in Beijing shocked Linquan County, and County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide was worried. The first thing that he thought about was still not how to calm down the immense dissatisfaction with the burden borne by the villagers. Instead, he still believed that high-pressure suppression was the best way to eradicate petitions.
So he sent a work group of more than 100 cadres into Wangying Village. For this large group of people, their living expenses including cigarettes and alcohol were shared by the residents, causing even more hardship among the villagers. The well-fed work group members then went around the village with the loudspeakers just like during the Cultural Revolution and generally annoyed the villagers.
At the same time, the Linquan County public security bureau published a propaganda sheet titled "Notice to urge Wang Junbin and other criminal elements to turn themselves in" and posted them everywhere. They not only asked Wang Junbin to surrender, but they also warned the families and relatives of Wang Junbin and other criminal elements as if their crimes extend to all the relatives.
And then the Linquan County Party Disciplinary Committee issued "The Decision To Expel Wang Junbin From The Party."
Afterwards, the Linquan County committee sent more than 200 people in more than 30 vehicles to say that they indeed to hold a 10,000-person meeting and to arrest all the petitioners. At the time, there was a drought and this was the crucial moment in the fight. But the worried Wangying Village had to disperse once again, thus causing more than 1,000 hectares of corn fields to spoil.
Wang Yang had joined the petition in Beijing. But he lost his mind from fright. He could not endure this endless life of horror and he killed himself by ingesting poison one night.
Next, the Linquan County court held an open trial of Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao. On the day of the hearing, the County court made some careful preparations and there were court policemen and armed policemen inside and outside the courthouse. But when the Wangying Village villagers heard that the court was going to try their petition representatives, six to seven hundred of them showed up. When the prosecutor read out the "criminal evidence" on Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao, the villagers ignored the court regulations by waving their fists in the air and yelling:
"You are lying and framing them up!"
"They are innocent!"
"We demand that you release them!"
"We insist on punishing the true masterminds of the suppression of the masses!"
There was chaos in the courtroom.
This kind of "courtroom explosion" had never occurred before in the history of Linquan County. The judges and the court police were confused. If people are not afraid of dying, how do you threaten them with death? The fully armed court police were afraid that the matter would deteriorate, so they backed off. The chief judge had to announce an adjournment.
Actually, the judges realized that those who are contemptuous of the law are not the peasants who "exploded inside the courtroom." The People's Court is our country's national judicial organization. The People's Court is the only one empowered to determine the criminal nature of any case. But quite soon after the 4/2 incident, the County Committee had posted the "Notice to urge Wang Junbin and other criminal elements to turn themselves in" in which they describe them as guilty of "assault, destruction and robbery" and even of "engaging in counter-revolutionary propaganda." When the County Party Disciplinary Committee issued "The Decision To Expel Wang Junbin From The Party", they defined the crime as a robbery case. This goes to show that the County Committee working group, the County public security bureau and the County Party Disciplinary Committee had all determined the nature of these "criminal elements" before the court even began the hearing, and in itself this was a criminal act that is in contempt of the law.
If the Linquan County People's Court did not find the petitioners guilty of something and sentence them to a couple of years, it would be difficult to explain to the Linquan Committee at that time. Therefore, the court did not convene again after the adjournment. Instead, on December 1st, the court sentenced Wang Xiangdong to two years in jail for "interfering with public business"; for the same crime, Wang Hongchao was sentenced to one year in jail subject to a two-year suspension period. As to how these two "interfered" with which "public business", the verdict document was impossible to decode.
Section 4. Chapter 17. Forced To Become Outlaws
Wang Hongchao was imprisoned for more than seven months before he was released under the "one-year sentence, two-year suspension" sentence, and he returned to Wangying Village. He found out that when Wangying Village was searched, they broke everything in his home and they also mixed his 8,000 doses of rat poison with his maize storage area so that the more than 5,000 pounds of food was inedible due to poisoning. His wife Li Lan was so scared that she now has mental problems. His daughter Wang Lingling was also scared and could no longer continue school; she just stayed home and went crazy whenever she heard a police siren or whistle.
Wang Hongchao looked at how his wife and daughter suffered, and tears streamed down his face. He remembered a letter that a petition worker published in a newspaper: "Historically, the peasants chose to file a written local petition first; today, the peasants choose to petition to the hierarchy above first. They all seek to find an outside force that can deliver justice for them. Most of the peasants today face direct organized opposition. When they find that their divided and moderate petitions fail, these humble peasants can no longer afford to be gentle and polite. If these petitioning peasants are said to be over-reacting, then this is a critique of the fact that the appropriate government departments are protecting those officials who are proven to be corrupt. And this is much better than the treatment that the peasants were receiving and it is far too clear!"
When Wang Hongchao read those words, he was truly touched. But at that moment, Wang Hongchao thought those words were not only endearing, but he was even more astonished because the words of that petition worker seems to be a critique of exactly what was happening in Linquan County right now.
At a time when the party central and the Ministry of State placed such importance on the agricultural problem, the fact some educated young peasants with conscience who were thoughtful and concerned enough to get involved politically should be able to stand up and speak for the peasants must surely be a good sign after the opening of the reforms in the peasants village as well as the hope of the Chinese peasant villages! But why were our cadre leaders in the agricultural area so incompatible with the new Chinese peasants? They seemed to have lost the ability to communicate with the peasants, they regarded the peasants who dare to speak the truth as "troublemakers", they condemned the peasants who dare to reveal corrupt acts and people as "rioting mobs", they forced people to accept orders as in "Three minutes to act or else the tornado comes in" and they ruthlessly attacked and cruelly suppressed those who "refuse to obey orders" and "affect political accomplishments negatively." It was no wonder that many peasants wished for "another political campaign to punish these bad people!"
The more Wang Hongchao thought about it, the more painful it was. If all the channels of communication for expressing popular opinion are blocked, this is equivalent to suicide because the party and the people's government become a deaf-and-blind handicapped person. If the last hope for solving problems is blocked, if all the logical and legal channels are blocked and if the peasants are illegally driven into a dead-end street, then when this discontent explodes one day, that will be the most destructive cause of instability!
He thought that the reason that the Linquan County public security bureau was able to arrest the three representatives right outside the National Petition Office reception station must be because they had lied to the comrades in Beijing. So his priority became not of getting doctors to treat his wife and daughter, but he wanted to go to Beijing one more time to clear the lies that were piled on them. When he arrived at this point, he began to think about the court session when the prosecutor began to read out the testimonies of the witnesses in court.
So Wang Hongchao began to take action. He spoke to villagers Zhao Xiying, Wang Laizi and Wang Haichao. If he didn't speak to them, he would never have known what really happened. But when he did, he got quite a shock because these so-called evidence and witnesses were all fabricated.
When the court was in session, Zhao Xiying did not appear in person. When the villagers returned, they told her that a testimony of hers was read out in court. When Zhao Xiying heard that, she was shocked. She said, on the night of the 4/2 incident, she went to bed as soon as it got dark. She had no idea what went on outside. She was illiterate so she could not have written any testimony, and she never put on palm print on any document. She said nervously, "If there is some testimony from me, then either someone is framing me or using me to frame someone else."
Wang Laizi said that the public security bureau had looked him up. They showed him two copies of material, but he told them that he was illiterate. So the other party read a list of names to him: "Are these people in your village?" He said, "Yes." Then the other party wrote up another document and asked him to put his palm print on it. But because he did not know what was in the document, he refused to put his palm print. At that moment, Baimiao Town party committee secretary Han Chunseng came over and said, "You should put your palm print on it. I guarantee you that you will be okay!" With these words from the party secretary, Wang Laizi pressed his palm print on the material brought over by the public security bureau officer as well as the document that was just written up. Later he found out that this was the 'evidence' that constituted the 'crimes' of the petition leaders.
Wang Haichao was even angrier. He never said that Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong and Wang Hongchao assaulted the public security officers and civilian patrolmen. His 'evidence' was completely fabricated. He said that when he spoke, they took notes. Then they made him press his palm print without repeating to him what they had written down. When they started reading the testimony out in court, the contents were completely different! In order to achieve their unspeakable goals, they had set up the witnesses to create false evidence!
Wang Dengyo and Wang Kaofeng were accused of participating in the "assault, destruction and robbery" during the 4/2 incident. Both of them wrote complaints that at that time, both of them were not even in the village. One of them was working in Henan province and the other one was working in Shanxi province. This bullshit "evidence" was created out of nowhere!
Looking at these true testimonies from the witnesses, Wang Hongchao was very shocked.
This was now towards the end of 1994. Wang Hongchao took a heart that was warmed like a ring of fire and walked into the bitterly cold northwestern wind. He took seventy-three villagers from Wangying Village and embarked on the train to Beijing for the fourth time.
For the moment, they put aside the "peasant burden" issue and they headed towards Beijing to complain about the bloody crimes of Linquan County Party Committee Secretary Zhang Xide in suppressing innocent masses.
When Zhang Xide learned that the Wangying Village villagers had once again gone up to petition as a group in Beijing, he was hopping mad. He grinded his teeth and said, "I am willing to lose an arm in order to keep fighting with you people!"
The fact that the Baimiao Town Wangying Village villagers had gone once, twice and thrice to petition in Beijing finally shocked the provincial party committee and a "provincial-distinct-county investigation team" was sent to Baimiao Town and Wangying Village.
But this turned out to be a very disappointing investigation. The team included members of the Linquan County committee for the purpose of investigating the undeniable responsibility of the Linquan County committee in the 4/2 incident, so its objectivity was destined to be compromised.
We have seen a "Written Report Material" that this joint investigation team copied to the National Petition Office. The report evaded the regulations within the national policy on burden relief, it failed to state whether the burden on Wangying Village peasants was excessive or not, and it even openly protected the corrupt behavior of the town and village officials. For example, in 1992, the village handed to the town 111,790 yuan. What was the purpose? Should the village be paying that? There was no explanation. Furthermore, many expenditure items were noted as "loans to the former village leadership" or "other loans." The amounts were quite large, but were they just taken by the village leadership or transferred elsewhere? Why should these unexplained loans be collectively paid by the villagers? Not a single word was mentioned. Anyway, the "Written Report Material" contained mostly inexplicable transactions, but the "provincial-district-county investigation team" came up with this astonishing conclusion: "The accounting was done cleanly, and there is no corruption problem among the village cadres."
The investigation team made a report based upon the script provided by the Linquan County committee on the 4/2 incident. They continued to describe Wang Junbin, Wang Xiangdong, Wang Hongchao, Wang Hongyin, Wang Hongzhang and Wang Hongjun as "criminals." As soon as Wang Hongchao got out of jail, he took the people to petition again. But the "Written Report Materials" said: "When the verdict document reached the two defendants, they were in agreement and will not petition again."
This report based upon official collusion was sent to the National Petition Office. There was no reason for the National Petition Office to disbelieve a report delivered by a joint investigation team from the province, the district and the county. Therefore, while Wang Hongchao and his villagers did not get arrested in front of the reception station of the National Petition Office like last time, this mission was not successful and they had to return without any results.
The fact that the personnel sent out by the provincial committee and the district committee colluded with the county committee was enough to drive the people of Wangying Village into utter despair. During the Chinese New Year of 1995 and the subsequent holiday, there was not a hint of happiness in the village. After spring arrived, the various villagers were busy with their spring planting and many Wangying Village villagers also left home to find work outside.
"There is no sorrow worse than despair" and the people had given up the idea of petitioning. The party and government organizations in Baimiao Town and Wangying Village might as well as not be there.
The surface calm concealed many sharp and unresolved conflicts. The Fuyang City committee and administration did not learn any lesson from the large petition campaigns by the Wangying Village peasants. County committee secretary Zhang Xide got even bolder. In 1995, the burden on the Linquan County peasants was increased as the various fees became higher. On the "double base educational fund," it was 25 yuan per peasant according to the district; but each level tagged on a surcharge, so that it became 40 yuan per person in Baimiao Town. If the district can impose a "double base educational fund", then all types of strange and unusual fees also began to appear at various other levels. Among the administrative villages of Baimiao Village, the burden on the peasants was equal to 15.26% of their previous year's income, which was more than three times the national "maximum limit."
As the burden on the peasants was increased, they made less than they paid out. But the country committee secretary Zhang Xide, who was the leader of this poor county, was more extravagant than ever and drove around in a sedan car that went beyond the official standard.
In the autumn of 1995, the impoverished villagers of Wangying Village encountered another unexpected disaster. On September 1st, the county sent a "Family Planning Development Activity Inspection Team" of more than 300 people to Wangying Village! Many of them were bad elements who behaved horribly and abused people. They even harassed people who were not targets of the family planning campaign. They used various excuses to collect fees and impose fines, they confiscated pigs and sheep, they dug up food, they took away furniture, they searched homes, they beat people and they arrested people. Furthermore, the work team divided the fines among themselves and they made the villagers pay for their wages and transportation fares for three hundred people.
Wangying Village villagers were really incensed. They finally got together and began the climactic fifth petition. This time, the villagers had the sentiment of "the brave people who set out without expecting to return." They realized that if they didn't succeed this time, the people of Wangying Village cannot survive.
There was no retreat.
They did not leave themselves with a path to retreat.
The person who stood up to lead this daring petition team was once again the peasant representative Wang Hongchao.
This was in the golden autumn of October 1995. In the Chinese capital of Beijing, two events occurred that were related to Linquan County of Anhui Province and shocked the whole world. This was the price that Linquan County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide paid by leaving himself open.
On October 4th, a couple of days after the 46th birthday of the People's Republic of China, Linquan County Chengguan Town Liwan Village peasant Li Xinwen came to petition in Beijing. The problem was that the County public security bureau wanted to build an office and colluded with the city construction supervision group to tear down the homes of peasants without any compensation. Li lost his livelihood and was homeless. When he arrived in Beijing, someone cheated him of his money. The desperate Li Xinwen tried to throw himself in front of car at the Front Gate but failed. In the early morning of October 5th, he jumped off the building of the Yongding Gate reception office and died!
This was something that had never happened at the reception station of the National Petition Office.
This should not have happened. Or, rather, it should not have happened at this location, and so it created a very bad influence.
On October 27th, 74 peasants from Baimiao Town Wangying Village arrived in Beijing under the leadership of Wang Hongchao. Almost immediately afterwards, on October 29th, 46 petitioning peasants from Linquan County's Tianqiao Village's Zhao Block, Huang Block and Zhang Block also arrived in Beijing.
Tienqiao Village and Baimiao Village were both suffering from excessive burden. Furthermore, the transferal of collective money at Tienqiao Village was even worse than that at Baimiao Village. In the year 1994, more than 600,000 yuan was taken out to go above, causing serious financial problems at the village level and which in turned forced the villages to madly raise quotas. In the autumn of 1995, they also had the surprisen inspection about family planning. Over the course of more than 50 days, more than 2.5 million yuan of fines and penalties were imposed in Tienqiao Village.
The fact that large numbers of peasants from two different towns in a county -- especially since this was the fifth petition trip by the peasants of Baimiao Town's Wangying Village -- obviously got the attention of the National Petition Office. They also sensed that the villagers of Wangying Village were determined this time to obtain justice and so they made preparations for the worst. On October 29th, which was a Sunday when many visitors streamed through Tienanmen Square, the petitioning peasants from Wangying Village eluded the watchful eyes of the workers at the reception station and went separately towards the Square. Acting according to the pre-determined plan, they approached the national flag and then they knelt down as a group.
They were ready to sacrifice their lives in order to ask the central government to render justice in accordance the law of the country.
They knew that to do this in a location known throughout the world is liable to create bad international repercussions for the county and the city of Beijing; they knew that they would soil the reputations of the party and the people's government. But it was obvious that they could not think of any other method that could shock those people who seemed to be indifferent to the suffering of the people.
An old saying has it that officials make people turn into rebels. But these people did not rebel. They were still only trying to reflect the injustices to the organization, and they were still looking for help from the party organization and the people's government. They had not wavered in their support of the party and they had not lost their trust in the people's government. They took grave risks to come to Beijing to see the party and the government, in order to see that the policy of the party central and the Ministry of State to lessen the burden on the peasants be implemented on their piece of soil, and to see that the calumnies that the County threw on them be cleared away.
Jumping off the building. Kneeling in front of the flag. Within the space of one month, the people of Linquan County created two world-stunning incidents in the nation's capital. It was impossible for the central government not to be shocked into action.
The central government's relevant departments finally took action. They immediately notified the responsible persons from Anhui province, district and county to come ot Beijing overnight. On that afternoon, they invited the responsible persons from the National Agriculture Department, the National Public Security Bureau, the Supreme Prosecution Office, the Supreme People's Court, the Central Disciplinary Supervision Committee, the National Planning Committee and other related party and government organizations to meet together to study the concrete problems presented by the petitioning peasants.
Wang Hongchao and two other peasant representatives were invited to attend the meeting to tell the reasons why they came to petition in Beijing.
The comrade from the Agriculture Department was very clear: it is a serious violation of the party central and the Ministry of State's policy on burden relief if the peasants had been asked to assume greater burden. It was also not permitted to take revenge on petitioning masses. If the money that was due was still not returned, then it must be done as quickly as possible!
The Central Disciplinary Supervision Committee, the Supreme Prosecution Office and the Supreme People's Court were also clear. The problems voiced by the peasants had not yet been resolved and in fact they have turned into severe conflicts. These were obviously mistakes that needed to be undone immediately without delay. If party discipline was violated, then party disciplinary punishment will be meted out; if national laws have been violated, then the laws will be enforced and applied. No matter who was involved, they will be thoroughly investigated and not tolerated!
Wang Hongchao asked the comrade from the Public Security Bureau several key questions related to the 4/2 incident. He asked: "Is there any restrictions on public security people about where they can patrol at night? Should public security personnel identify themselves while on duty? When a few public security officer got drunk, sneaked into a village in the middle of the night, refused to identify themselves, started to flee when questioned and pulled out a gun to threaten the masses, and then they are apprehended by the masses who assumed that they must be criminals posing as police and even smashed their car, would this be called 'interfering with public business'?"
The comrade from the Public Security Bureau was very straightforward in the reply: "Patrol is done mainly in busy areas, or spots which are known to experience frequent incidents such as robberies. Peasant villages are not patrol areas. It is illegal for public security personnel to refuse to produce their identification document while enforcing the law. The people can't tell if you are public security or not. Even if they beat you and smash your car, you must release them immediately!"
Wang Hongchao listened with emotion. He really wanted to stick up his big thumb to show his admiration for the conference attendees. Although he tried to restrain himself, tears fell out of his eyes.
On November 11th, the Anhui province organized anew an investigation team. Only 12 comrades from the Provincial Party Committee, the Provincial Government and the Fuyang District Committee Administration party-government leadership were involved, and they went to Baimiao Village and Wangying Village to conduct a field investigation. They held various forums and visited the petitioning villagers, and they made a public announcement about the results of their investigation. It took twenty days, and they issued a corresponding written report.
The report acknowledged first of all that the burden on the Linquan County villagers was severe. In 1993 before the 4/2 incident took place, Baimiao Town increased the burden on peasants by 131,659 yuan; furthermore, they sent another 135,176 yuan up from the village and they transferred 351,729 yuan elsewhere. Of these, "unreasonable expenditures" accounted for 68.77%. It was also pointed out that "the return of the money was not completed, with very negative results." As for the 4/2 incident, the investigation group stated the truth: "The county committee, the county government, other organizations directly connected with the county, and the Baimiao Town party committee and government all bear responsibility." "When they demanded money from the peasants or when they attempted to carry out the family planning work, they encountered difficulties but they resorted to using public security officers and civilian patrols to help them. In matters that involve petitioning peasants who wanted to resolve some internal conflict among the people, they also got the police to assist." "During the course of carrying out the duties, a small number of police were excessive in their actions and that hurt the feelings of the masses. A number of people are still bitter so that they could not stop complaining and petitioning, thus causing instability in the village."
On December 12th, 1994, this was an unforgettable day in Wangying Village. Wang Xiangdong, who had been imprisoned for more than nineteen months, was released after being declared not guilty of any crime. All the folks in the village were banging gongs, beating drums, setting off firecrackers and parading with a red banner with the words "Petitioning For The People" on it as if this was the Chinese New Year. They were celebrating the return of the village representatives who suffered so much on behalf of everyone and who have now returned in victory. Wang Junbin and Wang Hongyin who had to go into hiding because the county prosecutor's office was trying to arrest them were also greeted back into the village by everyone. Wang Ying also released from the Shaoying Administrative Village and returned on this own. Wang Xiangdong would later be elected by the villagers in a democratic election to become the first director of the Wangying Administrative Village Committee. Wang Junbin's party membership was restored and shortly afterwards he became the Wangying Village branch party secretary.
In the beginning of 1995, Linquan County Committee Secretary Zhang Xide was transferred away. The news of Zhang Xide's departure was spread from one person to ten persons to one hundred persons and then throughout the whole county. On that day, peasants from Baimiao County's Wangying Village, Shao Village and He Village, Tienqiao Village's Zhao Block, Ren BLock, Three River Block, Banla Temple and Yu Block set out in more than ten vehicles and arrived at the County Committee courtyard to surround Zhang Xide's home.
The crowd shouted out in anger: "Zhang Xide, you come out here!"
There were numerous spectators there. Many cadres with the County Committee and the County Government were watching, but no one was going to act as Secretary Zhang's protectors.
Zhang Xide came out, looking embarrassed. Just when he wanted to apologize to the people of Linquan County for not having done his work well, the crowd surrounded him. At first, the crowd was just screaming at him, including some cursing. Then the crowd started pushing, and it became a swollen sea of anger. Zhang Xide was pushed around, receiving some punches too.
The secretary who once thought that he was in total power and control now felt helpless and terrified.
The police car from the County Public Security Bureau arrived with their sirens blasting. Although Zhang Xide was battered by the crowd, he was still alert. When he saw the public security officers rushing over, he yelled out loudly: "You must not arrest the people! You must not harm the people!"
Perhaps this is the proper attitude for an official that Zhang Xide never did learn during his many years as County Committee Secretary until his final day on the job.
There was a retired military person from Chengguan Town with more than thirty years of party membership watching the peasants pushing and scolding the former County Committee Secretary. He felt terrible and then he remembered Henan Province Lanshizo County Committee Secretary Jiao Yulu, who passed away thirty years ago but was still deeply missed by the people.
This is perhaps an absurd but still very logical association, but such an association is going to make people feel especially pensive!