China's Dams

The dam, the petition, the lawyer and his diary

March 11, 2004

People displaced by a dam in Hebei province sought the help of a Beijing lawyer to present a petition to the National People’s Congress. The lawyer, who has been forced into hiding, has written a dramatic on-line account of what happened next.

Introduction

Farmers displaced by a dam in Hebei province in northeast China risked life and liberty last month to dodge police and gather more than 11,000 signatures on a petition calling for the removal of a top local official.

Zhang He

They accuse Zhang He, former mayor of Tangshan and now the city’s Communist Party boss, of stealing compensation funds intended for people who were forced to move in the 1990s to make way for the Taolinkou reservoir on the Qinglong River, near the coastal city of Qinhuangdao.

In a decade of protests, the petitioners have endured torture, severe beatings, jail and labour-camp sentences, and seemingly endless harassment and intimidation from local officials and police.

But they never gave up – and they may finally have achieved one of their fondest objectives. Reports on two U.S.-based Chinese-language websites yesterday [March 10], which could not be confirmed, said that Tangshan municipal Communist Party chief Zhang He was detained on Monday evening [March 8] in Beijing, where he is attending the current session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress.

The reports, on the Kan Zhongguo and Boxun sites, said a team from the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, accompanied by 10 police officers, apprehended Mr. Zhang at his Beijing hotel and escorted him away.

At the same time, another team searching his home in Tangshan discovered 90 million yuan (more than US$10 million) in cash and evidence of 400 million yuan ($50 million) in bank deposits, the unconfirmed reports said.

The Tangshan activists had sought the help of Beijing lawyer Yu Meisun in presenting their petition, which calls for Mr. Zhang to be stripped of his NPC credentials and which was signed by 11,283 people.

Seven of the Tangshan petitioners were arrested at their Beijing hostel last week, while the lawyer and two other petitioners were forced into hiding.

Yu Meisun, a respected lawyer who was jailed in the mid-1990s for “leaking state secrets” to a Shanghai newspaper reporter, has now written a compelling on-line account of the unfolding drama. [Excerpts appear below]

The dam

Taolinkou on the Qinglong River

(Source: Website of the Hebei Water Conservancy and Hydropower Design and Research Institute)
With a budget of 1.8 billion yuan [US$225 million], the Taolinkou reservoir was built in the 1990s on the Qinglong River, a tributary of the Luan River, in Qinglong Manchu Autonomous county near the coastal city of Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. A key water project jointly funded by the Ministry of Water Resources and Hebei province, the reservoir is a multipurpose project whose functions include flood control and power generation. Some 41,000 people were resettled for the project: 23,000 were moved to six counties in Tangshan municipality while 18,000 others were settled in the countryside around Qinhuangdao city.

The petition

March 4, 2004
Secretariat of the Second Session of the 10th National People’s Congress:

We, 20,000 people displaced by the Taolinkou reservoir in Qinglong county, Hebei province, are writing to you for help.

To make way for the dam, we were resettled in six counties in Tangshan municipality from 1992 to 1997. According to the provincial government policy (the General Office of the Government of Hebei Province Document No. 55, 1995), “13,000 yuan [US$1,550], including compensation, resettlement subsides and other funds, will be disbursed to each affected person.” But in the past eight years, we have received much less than that – amounts ranging from just 7,000 to 8,000 yuan [$850 to $950] per head. Quite apart from the 2,000 yuan [$250] per capita that was supposed to go to the villages that receive us, we are owed from 3,000 to 4,000 [$350 to $500] per head.

Zhang He, mayor of Tangshan at the time, and other officials in various government departments embezzled a total of 60 million yuan [$7 million] that was earmarked for resettlement. Accounts related to the resettlement schemes have never been open to public inspection. As the State Auditing Administration discovered, Yutian and Fengnan counties alone embezzled up to 10 million yuan [$1.2 million] of the resettlement funds. The money was misused, by being invested in other businesses, deposited at banks to earn interest, used to build luxury office buildings, and so forth.

Over the past several years we have taken great risks to appeal to higher authorities for help. But we have been beaten, detained and sent to labour camps for re-education or reform by local officials and police.

On April 1, 2000, for example, more than 100 petitioners were chased and surrounded by large numbers of police while they were on their way to Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, to appeal to the provincial government. Charged as falun gong practitioners, they were badly beaten, with some of them sustaining broken ribs, while others had their arms or legs broken. More than 40 of the petitioners were arrested and detained by police, who seized their ID cards and imposed heavy fines on them, but gave them no receipts. Four representatives, Zhang Feng, Liu Sue, Liu Zengfu and Cai Yunqiu, were charged with “attacking state organs” and sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to five years. Zhang Feng was sentenced to five years and is still in prison despite being very sick now. Zhang Shuqin, a 63-year-old woman, fell into a coma at the scene because she was so frightened. Another young woman, in her 30s, was sexually assaulted by a policeman at Hongqiao police substation.

Meanwhile, Li Zengrong and Zhang Zhaorong, director and vice-director of the Tangshan resettlement office, who embezzled 12 million yuan [$1.4 million] of resettlement funds, were each sentenced to just five years. They committed a capital felony, but received only a light punishment and were let out on bail to serve their time outside of prison because Zhang He, mayor of Tangshan, intervened in the case.

After appealing to higher authorities for help, one man, Li Tie, was taken to the crematorium of Yuntian county, where police blindfolded him, inserted an electric prod into his mouth, pushed him near the crematorium furnace and threatened to throw him in. “Are you going to appeal to higher authorities again? If you do, your family won’t ever see you again – not your body and not your ashes.” Four others, including Zhang Lai, Zhang Fushan and Li Wuping, who also appealed to higher authorities are still in Hehuaken labour camp in Tangshan, where they have also been subjected to beatings and insults.

Liu Xiaoyan, a 40-year-old woman from Bogezhuang town in Luannan county, was severely beaten by local cadres and police after she tried dozens of times to bring her complaints to the attention of higher authorities. As a result of the beatings, she now has a crippled leg, as well as hydrocephalus. Zhang He, mayor of Tangshan, gave the order that no departments or agencies were allowed to conduct a medical or legal investigation into Liu’s case.

In December 2003, Hao Shuqing, a farm worker in Qianan city, was kidnapped by police in Beijing and taken back to Tangshan. Hao had travelled to Beijing to accuse Zhang He of covering up the actions of his subordinate, Gan Youhe, who had hired a criminal to kill Wang, the former mayor of Qianan. Hao Shuqing was sentenced to a year and a half of re-education through labour.

According to the provincial government policy, Wang Yushu of Fengnan district should have been entitled to 500,000 yuan [$60,000] in compensation for his 20 hectares of mountain orchards that were expropriated by the government. But Wang received compensation of only 1,500 yuan [$180]. Outraged at such a small amount, he made repeated attempts to report his problem to higher authorities, but nobody paid any attention to him. As a result of this unfair treatment, his parents were driven mad, and died. In the past eight years, six members of his family have travelled to appeal to higher levels and have been detained many times.

Because of their displacement, 300 party members became disconnected from the party organization and were unable for years to participate in regular activities of the party. As party secretary of Tangshan, Zhang He turned a deaf ear to this matter.

Over the years, we citizens of Tangshan have constantly reported Zhang He’s offences and criminal activities to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council. To our dismay, Zhang was not investigated and dealt with appropriately, but instead promoted to the higher position of party secretary of Tangshan. Meanwhile, many citizens who have reported his wrongdoings have been punished and have had a hard time.

Under these circumstances, we have no choice but to protect our rights and interests through using the Constitution. We believe that what Zhang He has done goes against the principles of the “Three Represents” and violates Article 41 of the Constitution, the Penal Code and the government’s resettlement policy. It is Zhang He who has disturbed social stability

Responding to general secretary Hu Jintao’s call to “investigate and punish corrupt elements one by one” and chairman Jiang Zemin’s instruction that “violation of the Constitution is an extremely serious illegal act,” we firmly believe that Zhang He has failed to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of a National People’s Congress delegate.

According to the “representative law of the National People’s Congress and people’s congresses at local levels,” we have submitted to the National People’s Congress and People’s Congress of Hebei province for approval: that Zhang He’s representative status be withdrawn both for the National People’s Congress and the People’s Congress of Hebei province.

Every citizen of Tangshan who agrees to the recall of Zhang He’s status as an NPC delegate, please sign your name, write your ID number and put your fingerprint on this letter.

We will submit the letter to the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Hebei so that the legal process of withdrawing Zhang He’s NPC representative status can commence as soon as possible. At the same time, we will submit the letter to the NPC, the General Office of the Central Committee of the CPC, the General Office of the State Council, the Organizational Department of the CPC, the Law Office of the State Council and nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC. We will also invite the NPC and the Beijing media to Tangshan, to monitor the progress of this case.

Honourable citizens of Tangshan, our present plight, in which we are being persecuted, could be yours one day. We sincerely hope that all citizens of integrity and goodwill will sign the letter and take part in the recall of Zhang He’s NPC representative status, so that we are able to exercise our sacred rights as masters of the country, and so that officials with power and NPC representative status are no longer able to repress the people and wantonly trample on the law.

* * *

Notes:

‘Three Represents’

Article 41 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China
Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints or charges against, or exposures of, any state organ or functionary for violation of the law or dereliction of duty, but fabrication or distortion of facts for purposes of libel or false incrimination is prohibited. The state organ concerned must deal with complaints, charges or exposures made by citizens in a responsible manner after ascertaining the facts. No one may suppress such complaints, charges and exposures or retaliate against the citizens making them. Citizens who have suffered losses as a result of infringement of their civic rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the law.

The lawyer

(Sources: U.S.-based Chinese-language websites Dajiyuan and Boxun)
Yu Meisun graduated from the Department of Law at Beijing University in 1984. He worked in the Law Bureau of the State Council in the mid-1980s, helping to draft laws and regulations. He later worked as a secretary in the General Office of the State Council and then as a secretary to a vice-director of the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress from 1989. He was a senior researcher at Beijing’s East-West Research Centre in 2000, and is now deputy editor of China Law and vice-director of a Beijing law office.

* * *

(Source: South China Morning Post, Oct. 29, 1994)
Cadre jailed over state secrets leak
By Zhang Weiguo

A junior official of China’s State Council General Office has been sentenced to three years in jail for leaking state secrets, sources said yesterday. Sources said the official, Yu Meisun, 39, was arrested shortly after Lunar New Year and sentenced behind closed doors in May. His appeals have been rejected. Yu was secretary to Communist Party elder Gu Ming and taught law at Beijing University. Mr Gu was the secretary to late premier Zhou Enlai. Sources said Yu was convicted for leaking confidential documents to a Beijing-based reporter who worked for a Shanghai newspaper. The reporter was said to have used the information for publication. But they said state security agents had released the reporter after investigation. Pleas from influential elders like Mr Gu for leniency in Yu’s case were rejected. Mr Gu, who retired many years ago, was one of the few party elders who kept offices in Zhongnanhai.

The sentencing of Yu had plunged the whole family into severe hardship as he was the only breadwinner, sources said. There was no one to look after his seven-year-old daughter and his sick, elderly mother. Yu’s brother has mental problems. Described by his colleagues as a hard-working cadre, Yu played a role in legal reform and was instrumental in introducing computers to the mainland judiciary. He was also one of the few speechwriters for top Chinese leaders and has won recognition from many senior party officials.

The Diary (Excerpts from the on-line account written by Beijing lawyer Yu Meisun.)

Jan. 27, 2004

On Jan. 27, 2004, 30 representatives from four counties (Luannan, Qianan, Yutian and Leting) and two districts (Fengnan and Fengyun) in which people displaced by the Taolinkou reservoir have been resettled, gathered to study the Constitution and discuss how to protect their rights. At the meeting, they decided to launch a petition drive to have [Tangshan party boss] Zhang He removed as a delegate to the National People’s Congress.

Feb. 1

From Feb. 1, the petitioners began visiting affected people’s homes to collect signatures. To dodge police, they usually worked at night. More than 300 affected people were mobilized to collect signatures in 152 towns and townships. Within half a month, they collected 11,283 signatures in all.

One of the petitioners went back to the Taolinkou reservoir area, 180 kilometres away from the resettlement sites, to gather signatures. About 1,000 of the people displaced by the dam had returned to their old area because of dissatisfaction with unfair treatment in the new locations. Without electricity or medical services, they were living in terrible and dangerous conditions. They had to flee whenever floods occurred. Of those who had returned to the reservoir area, 616 signed the petition.

Local officials and police began monitoring the movements of the petitioners, following them from their homes to ports, and bus and railway stations. After returning from trips to Beijing, petitioners’ family members were taken to the police station for questioning.

Feb. 28

On Feb. 28, 10 petitioners from different places arrived in Beijing. They had with them a 500-page petition, with 22 names on each page.

Feb. 29

The next day, the petitioners took this material and went to talk to journalists at Guangming Daily (Guangming ribao). The newspaper staff became excited and expressed their support. Seven of the petitioners were staying at a small hostel near the newspaper, and were ready to discuss the case in greater detail with the Guangming Daily reporters.

March 1

At about 1 a.m. the next morning [March 1], the seven were arrested at the hostel by police from Tangshan. Two other petitioners were with me. We learned that more people were ready to come to Beijing from Tangshan after they heard about the arrest of the seven at the hostel. Zhang Youren, one of the petitioners with me, wrote an urgent application for a public demonstration and sent it to the Ministry of Public Security by express delivery. The application said:

      March 1, 2004
      Urgent application
      The Ministry of Public Security of the PRC:

We are representatives of 20,000 people now living in Tangshan who were affected by the Taolinkou reservoir. We have come here [to Beijing] to submit a letter to the second session of the 10th National People’s Congress, calling for the withdrawal of Zhang He’s NPC credentials. Police from Tangshan detained seven of the representatives who were staying at Beijing’s Shouchang Road Hotel, and another two are in hiding. Feelings have been running high among the 20,000 affected people in Tangshan since they heard this news. As many as 5,000 people there are ready to come to Beijing to denounce the Tangshan party committee’s illegal act. In accordance with the “assembly and demonstration law,” we are submitting to you an urgent application to hold a demonstration in Beijing. Please protect the demonstrators on their way to Beijing according to Articles 18 and 19 of this law.

20,000 affected people, Tangshan municipality, Hebei province
Tel: 13011517080

This morning, I did a Google search to try and get more information on the “assembly and demonstration law,” “the Constitution” and “the representative law of the National People’s Congress and people’s congresses at local levels.”

The police were everywhere, chasing us (the two remaining Tangshan petitioners and me). We had to leave my home and find somewhere to hide. Nowhere to go, so I called my ex-wife for help. She hesitated at first but eventually agreed.

March 2

At 7 a.m. the next morning [March 2], one of my neighbours called, saying he had heard someone knocking on my door for a long time. I told him it could be the police, and asked him to send the petition letter and signature pages to the NPC by special delivery.

Another call, from one of my cousins, who told me my ex-wife suspected I was on the run with two criminals. I was furious, and said to my cousin: I’m a lawyer, why don’t you trust me? I felt unsafe at my ex-wife’s place, so decided to leave because the police could arrive at any moment. I called several friends, but nobody wanted to take us in.

I called my neighbour again, who told me that police with Tangshan accents were wandering around my house [in Beijing]. He also said he had given the documents to an NPC delegate but was unsure whether the delegate would be able to submit them to the conference.

So I decided to send the material again to a secretary of Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPC. The secretary knows me well because we were colleagues in the past. I also thought I should post the petition letter with my diary on [a bulletin board of] the NPC website so the staff of the NPC secretariat could have a look at them. After that, I would be happy to say that I had done my best for the poor people of Tangshan.

Translations by Three Gorges Probe (Chinese) editor Mu Lan
Jiang Zemin, who retired as president a year ago, is expected to join China’s pantheon of socialist greats when his “Three Represents” political theory is enshrined in the Constitution as one of the guiding principles of the nation. The “Three Represents” says the Communist Party stands for advanced productive forces, advanced culture and the interests of the majority of the Chinese people. The theory paved the way for the party to admit entrepreneurs to its ranks. Analysts said the move would expand Jiang’s influence behind the scenes. The former party chief has handed both of China’s top jobs to Hu Jintao, but is expected to retain his post as chairman of the state Central Military Commission, the top military job. (Source: Reuters, March 4, 2004)

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