The Mysterious Village Surveillance Cameras

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  By Tan Renwei.  October 18, 2009.

Li Chunhua is a resident of Qiaojia village, Lutou town, Longkou city, Shandong province.  Since 2006, she has been continuously petitioning on behalf of her family.  On June 19, she went to Beijing once again.  On July 31, she returned home.

A few days after her return, she noticed that there was a pole erected in the passageway between the two houses across her.  There was a camera-like object on top of the pole.  At first, she did not pay too much attention.  On August 5, she noticed someone installing an electric wire on the old house across her.  When asked, the installer said that he was checking the telephone line.  The wire was white-colored and clearly different from the other phone lines in the village.

At first, Li did not pay much attention to this.  On reflection, she thought that something was awry: the resident of the old house across her was a single old man who normally live away from the village.  The old man only comes back once or twice a year to visit relatives.  The old house was therefore ordinarily uninhabited, and therefore it made no sense to install a fixed line phone there.

So Li's husband Qiao Ruikun went over to the old house.  He saw that a hole had been drilled in the back wall from which a black camera lens wrapped by hemp cloth was protruding.  The camera was pointed right at Li Chunhua's house.  The back window of the old house had no glass, and was covered by plastic cloth.  He pulled back the plastic cloth and spotted a computer system.  He took photos of everything and sent them to a blogger to post on the Internet.

On August 15, Qiao went back to the old house and examined the equipment even more closely.  The computer monitor was off, but all the other equipment had their lights on.  There was a router whose signal lights kept flashing.  Another piece of equipment was tagged "Digital Video Recorder."  The computer keyboard and other equipment were also present.  The white wire went from outside the house to connect to these equipment.

On August 16, Li Chunhua noticed that there was an even smaller hidden camera on the frame of the back door of the old house.

Li Chunhua had no idea who owned the equipment.  She believed that the town government must have installed the equipment.  When she returned from petition trips, someone came in the middle of the night and broke her window.  Her husband apprehended two individuals, one of whom was an auxiliary policeman in town.  Li Chunhua told our reporter that no government department has told them who installed the camera.  There are no cameras anywhere else in the village.

Many netizens concur with the speculation of Li Chunhua.  But other netizens were doubtful because the equipment is not inexpensive.  "What kind of VIP is Li Chunhua?  Why did they need to take such actoin?"  "When something like this happens in an old revolutionary district, it should be investigated.  Those responsible should be apprehended in order to clear the government's name."

Our reporter checked with Lutou town deputy secretary Sun Xueqing who is in charge of petition matters.  Sun said that he had no idea who installed the equipment.  "I'll look into it."

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  August 22, 2009.

The surveillance equipment was sitting on the earthern bed in the old house.

"123" --- the reporter entered these three numbers on the computer keyboard.  The Zhongwei C801 Digital Surveillance System software opened up right in front of the reporter.  Previously, the reporter had gone on the Internet and found out that the passcode was "123."  This actually worked!

This surveillance system may seem very high-tech stuff.  But on close examination, this was the cheapest kind of system that can be assembled together by any computer seller.  Several wires were strung around the house, including one that was connected to the camera in the hole of the back wall pointing at Li Chunhua's house.  There was another smaller camera on the frame of the backdoor, also pointing in the same direction.

The camersa seemed very advanced, because they take clear pictures of the outside.  The reporter examined the surveillance records in the computer, and he saw photos of the worker laying down the wires, Li Chunhua standing in front of her house and her son discovering the cameras.

The reporter perused the records stored in this system.  The camera with the Made In Japan tag in the hole in the wall had a medium-long focus by which Li Chunhua standing in front of her home 20 meters away can be clearly seen.  The small camera in the frame of the door had a wide-angle focus by which the front door of Li Chunhua's home can also be clearly seen.

The records showed that at 12:59 on August 14, Li Chunhua's family was standing in front of their house.  Suddenly, Qiao Fenghao pointed at the camera and the whole family looked in that direction.  Then Qiao Fenghao went over the collapsed west wall of the old house and got near the camera to take a photo with his mobile phone.  Then the camera began to shake violently until it ended up pointing at the bush in the courtyard.

The earliest recorded image in the records is on August 5.  Strangely enough, the camera was not located in the old house at the time.  Instead, it was the wall of of another neighbor, but the front door of Li Chunhua's home was still visible.

On August 19, Lutou town party deputy secretary Sun Xueqing told the reporter that the village government had installed the cameras.  But the purpose was not to monitor petitioner Li Chunhua.  Instead, these were technical systems used for public security.  There are a total of five surveillance cameras, of which two were in the unoccupied old house.

Li Chunhua does not believe in this explanation.  She said, "The other three cameras are installed on major paths in the village.  So why are the other two pointed right at my door?"

Li Chuhua is married to 50-year-old Qiao Ruikun, who used to be a truck driver.  On February 25, 2006, the siblings of Qiao Ruikun came to their home in order to seize custody of their father Qiao Linghu.  The father is a retired teacher who receives a good pension.  The children are supposed to rotate care of the father once every two months.  The pension pay goes to whoever is taking care of the father.  So all the children wanted to take care of the father.  This time, there was a dispute and Qiao Ruikun was injured in a brawl.  Apart from the physical injuries, he was also diagnosed with acute mental psychosis.  Since then, he has frequently acted erratically.

So far, Li Chunhua has made eight petition trips over the family brawl as well as the court decision on how to distribute the father's assets among the children.  On June 27, Li Chuhua was brought back from Beijing by Longkou city and Lutou town government workers.

At the Lutou town police station, director Xue Zhixun told the reporter that he was not sure who installed the cameras.  "But the police station definitely did not install them."  Xue Zhixun said that the village government might have installed them for administrative reasons.  Presently more than 20 villages in the town have installed surveillance camera systems.

At the Lutou town village government building, party deputy secretary Sun Xueqing provided the same speculation as the police station chief.  After he received the phone call from our reporter on August 17, he checked and confirmed that the town government did not install the cameras.  So he guessed that it must have been a "security technical" measure by the village.

Sun Xueqing produced a document that said that "security technical" measure is a way to evaluate performance of village government worth two points.

There are many ways to verify these allegations.  In a news report in <Today Longkou> last November, "What is most prevalent on the roads, paths and residences of Longkou?  Answer: Electronic eyes.""  "In terms of security technical measures, there are security/traffic monitoring networks, regional security technical networks, security monitoring at major spots and combined police information networks at 10 locations in the town and 149 locations in the villages.  At the village level, the security technical measures cover more than 30% of the area."

Sun Xueqing siad that there are a total of five cameras in Qiaojia village.  As to why two of those two cameras happened to point right at the front door of Li Chunhua's home, Sun Xueqing explained that testing has not been completed and the system is not fully operational yet.

The reporter saw a camera in front of the Qiaojia village party committee office, but it is twice as big as the one in front of Li Chunhua's house and it had a LED light.  It was highly visible by the roadside.

At the office of Lutou town party secretary Liu Dianqing, the reporter then encountered the three cadres who were chased away by the axe-wielding Qiao Ruikun down.  They were Qiajia Village party secretary Qiao Fengkai, town party deputy secretary Sun Xueqing and town cadre Wang Tong from the town publicity department (for outside relations).

Wang Tong said that he got curious after reading Southern Metropolis Daily's news report of August 18 and came over to see for himself.  But they were discovered by the axe-wielding Qiao Ruikun and therefore fled in a hurry.

"I am lucky to be able to see you again," said Wang Tong half in jest while still half being scared.  "The axe came right at me."

During the panic, Qiao Fengkai lost a pair of cloth shoes.  At the interview, he wore a pair of newly purchased cloth shoes.  Sun Xueqing lost one leather shoe, so he was now wearing a pair of athletic shoes that did not match his western suit.  They had clearly suffered a scare.  Wang Tong smiled and said: "If you think that he is crazy, then why didn't he swing the axe at you?

At 5pm, Li Chunhua received a panicky telephone call from her son Qiao Fenghao to report an incident at home.  When she got back, her husband Qiao Ruikun said that the village party secretary Qiao Fengkai had gone into the old house with two men for who knew what reason.  So he took an axe and went over there to chase them away.  He also took out a pair of cloth shoes and one leather shoe to say that the men had left these behind during their flight.  Qiao Ruikun kept repeating to himself: "I am going to smash all those fucking things!"  His son Qiao Fenghao said: "Don't smash them.  All those things are evidence."

Qiao Fengkai said that the village government installed the surveillance equipment for security monitoring.  The equipment cost 7,000 yuan.  There are some big factories in the village with 600 or 700 workers imported from the outside.  By comparison, the village only has 631 residents.  There were more than a dozen thefts last year.  Therefore, it was critical to install the security surveillance cameras.

The other three cameras were installed on major paths in the village.  The reason why two cameras were installed right across Li Chunhua's house was because this was right at the edge of the village.  Once past that point, it was the farm fields.  Can the computer in the village party office see the front door of Li Chunhua's house?  Qiao Fengkai said that everything is still being tested.  The city political and legal committee will decide later this year.  Sun Xueqing said that it is the goal is for each village to have four or more cameras.

Town party secretary Liu Dianqing said that the government has no stake in the family squabble that Li Chunhua is petitioning over.  But by going to Beijing, all the levels of government will get points deducted.  In the end, Lutou town will get points deducted as well as required to solve the problem.

When Liu Dianqing became town party secretary, he tried to get Li Chunhua to stop petitioning.  But he found out that the town government could not do anything because he cannot interfere with the court verdict.  Li Chunhua said that this was never the town government's business, but they wanted to butt their heads in anyway.

Afterwards, the town cadres insisted on dining with the reporter.  On the way, Sun Xueqing called Qiao Fengkai in the other car: "That camera ought to be moved elsewhere.  If not, they might smash it and that will cost money.  There is a water tower to the east.  Can you see if the camera can be installed there?"

Postscript: On August 20, Li Chunhua heard that Qiao Fengkai admitted that the village government had installed the surveillance equipment.  So she went to ask him the first thing in the morning.  She said that Qiao Fengkai denied it.  So Li Chunhua went back, broke the lock into the old house, moved all the equipment into her own house and refused to talk to Qiao Fengkai again.  She is waiting to see who will come to claim the equipment.