Women threaten suicide in protest at official corruption

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 August, 2004, 12:00am


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Liaoning group complains of injustice back home during drama on Beijing roof

Six women from Liaoning threatened to jump off a six-storey apartment block in Beijing yesterday in a protest against injustice they claimed they had received in their home province.

Dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with the words 'Liaoning' and 'injustice', the women gathered on the rooftop of the building near the Zhongnanhai compound - the centre of mainland political power - before 8am.

They unfurled two banners that read: 'We accuse police, prosecutors and courts of making up criminal cases', and 'corruption and falsehood'.

Police cordoned off a 400-metre section of Lingjing hutong and only official cars were allowed through. About 200 people watched the drama unfold.

The women came from various parts of Liaoning, including Liaoyang , Chaoyang and Haicheng , and were each pleading for cases involving family members to be re-examined.

In a letter, Communist Party member Su Dianhua, 66, said her son had been wrongly sentenced to 14 years' jail.

An unnamed woman was representing Li Haiyun, a Haicheng woman beaten and permanently injured after reporting corrupt officials.

At 11.15am, firefighters placed an eight-metre long air mattress below the building in case the women jumped. Police tried to disperse onlookers but they continued to gather.

Plain-clothes officers climbed a ladder several times to negotiate with the women but all attempts failed.

Representatives from the state complaints bureau, the Beijing municipal government, the Beijing Public Security Bureau and the Liaoning work team also tried to persuade the women to back down.

Li Mengtao, the owner of a nearby apartment, said police officers arriving at the scene had tried to talk the protesters into leaving the roof. Ms Li said the women were crying and knelt as they spoke of their cases. 'If local government is not corrupt to a certain extent, how can they be like this?' she said.

At 3pm, two police officers scaled ladders to the roof and led the women away from the edge. They drove them away in two cars and said they had not decided how the six would be treated.

One veteran protester who knew the women said suicide attempts by elderly petitioners were on the rise because many had lost hope of having their problems solved by filing official complaints under the petition, or shang fang, system.

Many had decided to take drastic action in the hope that the central government would intervene and solve their problems.

'There are police from different provinces outside the petition offices of central government departments to hijack petitioners and send them home,' the protester said.

'When the petitioners use up all their money, many are desperate to find ways to have their problems solved as soon as possible because they cannot hang on anymore.'