Capital penalises self-harm protests

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 April, 2004, 12:00am

Petitioners who 'violate social order' by attempting suicide, setting fire to themselves or otherwise inflicting serious self-harm face punishment under new Beijing municipal rules.

The guidelines, which apply only to the capital, also state that petitioners who protest in Tiananmen Square will be taken by public security authorities to petition offices.

Petitioners who protest without prior authorisation at the square will be returned to the party committee or government offices at their place of residence to be 'educated and dealt with'.

Displaying banners, shouting slogans, blocking government vehicles and surrounding state offices anywhere in Beijing 'disrupts social order' and are punishable, the rules state.

'Those who engage in such extreme acts as suicide, self-immolation or self-mutilation ... are seriously disrupting social order and could be punished by law,' the rules say. It does not set penalties.

National and city laws now regulate petitioning. The national law prohibits the blocking or storming of national organisations and the obstruction of government vehicles; the city law requires petitioners to respect the petition offices' orders.

The New York-based Human Rights in China group said the number of petitioners was increasing and the city was increasingly likely to employ heavy measures to crack down on them.

Thousands of petitioners were rounded up and held in a gymnasium in a western suburb of Beijing last month when the National People's Congress was in session.

Last year, more than 17,000 written petitions were accepted and 50,100 petitioning phone calls dealt with. Xinhua reported on Friday that more than 90 per cent of those complaints had been resolved.