The Most Awesome Police Station Ever

This is a run-of-the-mill story: a man goes to petition at the People's Congress but the police from his hometown were waiting for him and arrested him.  This must occur many times each day all over China.  So what?  We all know that 'police' + 'arrested petitioner' does not mean much anymore.

Except this story is about 'police' + 'charged into the Provincial People's Congress' + 'arrested petitioner.'  Now all of a sudden, we have an Internet storm with thousands of comments coming in every hour.  This looks very bad for the People's Congress when a local police officer could tell them off with "You have no say over me."

In the following, three reports have been translated.  The first one is the original breaking story which drew the initial Internet reactions.  The second report comes from Southern Weekend, which has the resources to conduct a thorough investigation and sort out the details.  It would turn out that there is a crucial point: the arrestee had expected trouble and notified the press to be present.  That was why the entire arrest was filmed.  Without the press, this would have been a non-event.  The third report mops up some of the issues.  

It has been reported that the police officer named Liu Qiang has been dismissed from his post.  But that does not make the underlying problem vanish.

(Sichuan News Net)  

(in translation)

In order to arrest citizen Cheng Bolin to serve a five-day security detention, the Sichuan province Renshou county police station forcibly charged past several guard posts at the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress.

At 2pm on July 20th, the petitioner citizen Cheng Bolin arrived at the entrance to the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress and saw the Renshou county Gaojia town workers and Wengong town police officers rushing at him en masse.  "Cheng Bolin, what are you doing here?" they shouted.  "I am here for a meeting in accordance with a notice from the Provincial People's Congress Petition Office," said Cheng Bolin as he walked towards the guard post.  When he got to the main office building, he took out his identification for the guard to examine.  At that moment, the people from Renshou county, who had rushed past the guard post without being checked, quickly charged into the office building and yelled: "Cheng Bolin, what meeting are you attending?  We are here to arrest you today."  Before they even finished saying that, they had tackled Cheng into the ground.  Cheng was then rustled into the car with license plate number Sichuan O.Z0158.

Seeing the chaotic scene, the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress security guards quickly gathered at the scene and said: "You cannot arrest anyone here.  If you want to carry out an order, you must follow procedure.  How can you arrest a petitioner within our security perimeter?"

Faced with the questions from the Provincial People's Congress, the Renshou police officers replied confidently: "We are here on official assignment.  The Provincial People's Congress has no power to interfere."  The Provincial People's Congress Petition Office and their security guards met with the Gaojia town government workers and the Wengong town police about Cheng Bolin.  The security guards said: "The Provincial People's Congress respect and protect the basic rights of every petitioning citizen.  This is the most basic right conferred by the constitution to the people.  Today Renshou's action is an inappropriate action taken in an inappropriate way in an inappropriate time and place."

Faced with the questions from the Provincial People's Congress, director Liu Qiang from the Wengong town police station said: "I have my procedure to arrest people.  We are here to arrest someone.  You have no say over me."  The Petition Officer manager Wang Jian said: "Did you come here today to arrest a petitioner who came for a meeting?  Did you put the citizen petitioner in handcuffs right at the People's Congress office?  Is the citizen petitioner still wearing handcuffs?"  Liu Qiang replied: "Mmmm.  The man has been arrested and he is still being handcuffed in the car."  Wang Jian then asked: "We notified your party secretary to come here for a forum and receive the person, but you chose a barbaric approach instead.  Do you know that what you do is wrong?"  Liu Qiang cried out loudly: "Aren't you the organization that supervises the law?  You have no say over me ..."  Amidst the shouting, Liu Qiang left the meeting.

(Southern Weekend)  Can A Police Station Send People To Arrest A Petitioner at the Provincial People's Congress?  By Xiang Cheng and Zhao Lei (向郢+赵蕾).  July 26, 2006.

(in translation)

Sichuan province Gaojia town health department director Cheng Bolin had three quarrels with people in the past 40 days.  The first two were back home, but the last one was in front of the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress building.  His loud voice embroiled the people who came to arrest into an argument with the Provincial People's Congress.

On July 24, Sichuan News Net published an exclusive story titled: "Renshou Police Charged Into Provincial People's Congress To Arrest Petitioner."  This news quickly became the hottest news item with the most number of hits.  Certain portal websites garnered several thousand comments within a brief period.

So how did this affair come about?

At around 2:50pm of July 20, 2006, Cheng Bolin got out of the taxi and walked to the Provincial People's Congress entrance.  From afar, he saw two or three familiar people coming out of the parking lot.  His heart tightened and he hurried towards the People's Congress building to the right of the parking lot.

As he walked, he turned and saw that the people were catching up to him.

"Cheng Bolin, what are you doing here?"  The people asked as they caught up to him.  He recognized that the Gaojia town Finance Department director and an office worker, and the other three were police officers from the Renshou county Wengong town police station.

"I am here for a meeting at the notice of the Provincial People's Congress," Cheng Bolin said while he hurried to the security guard post.  He had received a telephone call in the morning to ask him to come for a meeting at the Petition Office.

He told the guard at the post quickly "The Petition Office asked me to come here for a meeting" and he began to accelerate his in the hope of dropping his pursuers.

But he did not know where the "second floor northern conference room" was.  On the left was the big hall and on the right was an old five-story-tall office building.  As he hesitated, his pursuers were on him.

"Cheng Bolin, what meeting are you having?  We are here to arrest you."  Before they even finished saying that, he was held down on the ground.

Cheng Bolin immediately yelled: "I came here upon the notice from the Provincial People's Congress.  Why are you arresting me?  If you want to do anything, you should wait until after the meeting.  You cannot arrest people inside the Provincial People's Congress.  It was the Petition Office which notified me to come here."

A person holding handcuffs yelled at him: "The Petition Office told us to arrest you.  How else would we know where you are?"

At that moment, a black Santana with license place Sichuan OZ0158 and a police lamp on top came in and the people tried to push and pull Cheng Bolin into the car.

"Aiiiiyyyyaaaa!  You cannot arrest me.  I was notified by the Provincial People's Congress Petition Office to come here for a meeting!  Aiiiiyyyyaaaa!  It is against the law to arrest citizens at the Provincial People's Congress..."  The handcuffed Cheng Bolin held onto the car door and cried out loudly.

The armed officers at the guard post and the security guards inside the building heard him and came up, "You cannot arrest people here.  How can you arrest a petitioner within our security perimeter" and "Even if you are carrying out an order, you must follow procedure.  Have you communicated with the security department?"

While the discussion was going on, Cheng Bolin was dragged into the back of the car.  As the car door was being closed, one of the police officer pointed at the Provincial People's Congress security guards and said: "We are here to carry out an assignment.  You have no right to interfere with us."

The Santana tried to get out through another entrance in the back of the building, but it was blocked.  The car turned around but the security guards over this side blocked them again.

This chase which went on for almost ten minutes was recorded by the various news reporters on the scene.  They had been notified earlier by Cheng Bolin, who "had expected trouble."  During the process, the scene in which Cheng Bolin was pushed into the car was recorded with DV by reporters.

The car was intercepted, and the leaders from the Provincial People's Congress Petition Office, the Education, Science and Health Office and the security office hurried over.  The political committee person from Wengong town and the two workers from Gaojia town then went to the northern second-floor conference room for a meeting.

The reporters also went in and they found the conversations were like two trains running along parallel tracks.

The people from the People's Congress emphasized that they "wanted people from the county to come for a meeting and then bring the person home," but the Wengong town police station workers emphasized that they were told to "carry out the law."

Wengong town police station political committee member Liu Qiang said repeated in a righteous way: "I have my procedure.  We came here to arrest people.  You people at the Provincial People's Congress have no say over me."  "I have my procedure.  I am not wrong."

The procedure that Liu Qiang was referring to was the administrative punishment of five days of security detention against Cheng Bolin.

This began with a quarrel that Cheng Bolin had on the afternoon of June 14.  But here we must mention another quarrel that Cheng Bolin had two days ago with another doctor at the health department.

According to Cheng Bolin, that first quarrel occurred because he criticized the doctor for being incompetent in his work after causing two medical disputes in one month.  According to the town party secretary, the doctor heard that he would be dismissed and he got mad and grabbed a surgical knife to stab Cheng.  However, someone else got injured instead.

Since Gaojia town only had one militia policeman and the Wengong town police station was too faraway, Cheng Bolin went to the town administration and asked for help to mediate.  But the attitude of the person over there angered Cheng, "he kept remarking sarcastically that I am incompetent and that I could not even eat my own shit cleanly (自己的屎都吃不干净)."

On the third day, Cheng Bolin went to the town government to report about work at the "Peace Hospital" and then he could not help but complain.

"As soon as I talked about 'Peace,' I got mad.  What 'peace' was there?"  The quick-tempered Cheng Bolin said some ill-thought things to the mayor and the disciplinary committee secretary.  "When an incident occurred, I can't get anyone to come out.  I might as well as be the mayor."

"Your mouth stinks (嘴巴臭) and you should not be criticizing the leaders here."  Cheng Bolin heard a young man named Zhou Bing scold him this way, and got even madder.  That 24-year-old young man was not a town cadre, but a western region volunteer worker sent down by the provincial committee.

Later on, Cheng Bolin told this reporter that he "was enraged."  After some more quarreling, the two began to wrestle in the office.  Cheng Bolin saw Zhou Bing pick up a stool to get ready to hit him, and so he picked up an abacus from the desk and hit back.  In the end, the stool did not hit Cheng Bolin but the abacus hit Zhou Bing on the head and caused some bleeding.

"I am really sorry that something like this happened when I went to make a job report.  We were wrestling with each other in anger, but it was not a deliberate assault."  On July 6, the worried Cheng Bolin received a notice from Liu Qiang.  After Cheng signed the document, Liu Qiang took the material back.  Cheng remembered clearly that the case was described as "intentional injury."

Cheng sensed that something had gone wrong and immediately procured the service of a lawyer.  On July 10, the lawyer went to the Renshou county public security office to mediate and found out that the public security office had decided upon a penalty of five days of security detention.

After discussing with the family, Cheng decided to travel from Renshou county on July 12 to petition in Chengdu.

The situation being what it is, the handcuffed Cheng Bolin now becomes trouble.  The negotiation over how he was to be "returned" broke down several times.

The appearance of the people from the police station turned a simple 'petition' case into a complicated affair.

How did the police station obtain the "information"?  The reporter checked with several sources and the combined story was that the Provincial People's Congress informed the County People's Congress to retrieve the petitioner.  The County People's Congress then notified Gaojia town and mentioned that "we understand that the county public security office has joined in the investigation of the Cheng Bolin case; if there is a decision, then you may go with the police station people to retrieve him."

Ten days ago, the public security office had decided on the security detention of Cheng Bolin.  Therefore, the town notified the police station.

So after the incident in front of the Provincial People's Congress, the police from the police station and the Provincial People's Congress faced off against each other.  The Provincial People's Congress did not agree with the cuffing of Cheng Bolin by the Wengong town police station, while the police station people did not want to release the target of their law enforcement action.

The final solution was to call Gaojia town party secretary Xia Jiancheng and let him come to the Provincial People's Congress to take Cheng Bolin away.

During the meeting, the Provincial People's Congress Petition Office director Wang Jian criticized the police station people for "forcibly handcuffing a citizen petitioner," but Liu Qiang insisted that "I have my procedures and it is legal."

Liu Qiang then left the conference room.  Downstairs, Cheng Bolin had been handcuffed to the car door and he wanted to use the restroom.  Liu Qiang took off his handcuff, but Cheng Bolin insisted on "keeping the handcuff on his right hand as evidence."

On that afternoon, Cheng Bolin went back to the county health department under the escort of two town cadres.  The doctor on duty put a piece of band-aid on Cheng's right wrist and wrote an "injury report."  Cheng returned home at 9am that night.

Cheng Bolin only had a scratch on his wrist, and he never imagined that his experience would become the "hottest" news in China.

After Sichuan News Net published the report, it was quickly carried by various websites and the number of hits rose quickly.  At one portal, there were more than 3,000 comments by 8pm already.

"Police," "charge into the Provincial People's Congress," "arrested petitioner."

These words were no doubt the key to attract eyeballs.  Some websites even set up special discussion areas and let the netizens vote on whether the police acted properly.  Our reporter discovered that the preponderance of votes were against the police action.

But Chinese People's University Law School professor Zhang Zhiming takes a completely different view.

First of all, the definition of Cheng Bolin as a "petitioner" is undoubtedly a key factor in getting the attention of the netizens.  According to our reporter's investigation, the police station issued the penalty against Cheng Bolin previously.  Professor Zhang thinks that the people's attention was drawn to the manner by which the police enforced the law and ignored the fact that the police station's administrative penalty was valid and should be carried out.  As for Cheng Bolin, he was given an administrative penalty previously and did not exercise his right to seek a legal appeal and go through other existing channels.  Instead, he went directly to the Provincial People's Congress.  Therefore, he cannot be simply regarded as a petitioner.

The next question is: "Can the police enforce the law in front of the Provincial People's Congress?

"There is no regulation in the law that the People's Congress office can be used to shield lawbreakers."  Professor Zhang said that historically, churches and foreign lease areas have been refuge havens.  In contemporary reality, army barracks and senior government departments and law enforcement agencies are restricted zones and cannot be entered without permission.  But this does not mean that the People's Congress should be a place where the law cannot be enforced.

Professor Zhang means that although it was proper for the police station to enforce the law, there were obviously some problems in the manner by which the law was being enforced.  For example, when they go to an outside place to carry out the law, they ought to notify the relevant departments and do their best not to interfere with normal business.

Sichuan News Net interviewed a provincial social science academy law expert, who said that the police station ought to have communicated with the relevant departments of the Provincial People's Congress beforehand and receive permission.  To charge into the security perimeter and make an arrest is an improper action by improper means at an improper time and place, and it is extremely disrespect towards national law and a national organization of authority.  The Provincial People's Congress would be correct if it attempted to prevent such incidents within its security perimeter, for they are protecting the dignity of the constitution and the law.

"If the media reports are true, then there is a huge problem with the quality and working style of the police officers."  In the Sichuan News Net report, the police station's leader Liu Qiang had replied to the questions from the Provincial People's Congress people by saying: "You the Provincial People's Congress, the supervising organization of the law.  You have no say over me."

In Professor Zhang's view, the attitude of that police officer showed that he was ignorant of the Chinese political system and the function of the People's Congress and that he had an improper understanding of his own law enforcement powers.

That is an important reason why many netizens were outraged.  But Zhang Zhiming also thinks that the People's Congress is a supervising organization, and its supervision should follow legal procedures.  Just because the law enforcement people did not notify them beforehand and then enforced the law improperly does not mean that the enforcement of the law was wrong.

Apart from basic legal knowledge, "why did a simple affair became a huge news item?"  A media worker who was observing this incident said that the background social psychology deserves to be analyzed.


(in translation) ...

The incident at the Provincial People's Congress office revealed many embarrassing things about the society.

First, the embarrassment about the roles of certain local people's congress organizations.  A citizen once described the power of the People's Congress: at the upper level, it supervises the various levels of government and at the lower level, it oversees oil, salt, sauce and vinegar.  This means that the points of contact of the People's Congress' operations and supervisions are everywhere.  In reality, the People's Congress is still coming up short in terms of its supervisory role.  How else would a director from a small police station not realize the true role of the People's Congress and then was bold enough to say "You have no say over me"?

Second, the embarrassment of the petitioning work.  It is a right for a citizen to provide feedback to the People's Congress.  The Sichuan Provincial People's Congress notified the Renshou county department leaders to attend a meeting in order to resolve a problem, and this was being seriously responsible towards a citizen petition.  But the terrible thing is that the petition process intended to resolve popular problems humanely became suppression and blockade by certain base-level officials.  These violent suppressions seemed to have become normal occurrences in some places.  Where then is social harmony?

Third, the embarrassment of citizen rights.  Faced with the police which can handcuff and arrest people without due process, faced with a police station that accepts the 'verbal order' of a town party secretary as the basis for law enforcement and faced with a base-level police officer who treats the Provincial People's Congress as nothing, how shall those grassroots citizens expect justice from the law?