A dozen people protesting over the demolition of their homes in Wuhan drank pesticide in Beijing in a desperate bid for attention that underscores the failures of the decades-old petitioning system.
The 12 were being treated for poisoning yesterday after surviving their protest near the Qianmen watchtower in the heart of the capital on Tuesday, said Wang Yuping, one of the residents.
Petitioners on the mainland are sometimes driven to extreme measures as their frustration boils over after years of unresolved grievances and routine beatings by local authorities.
Wang, 40, and the others travelled to Beijing from the Hubei capital to draw attention to their complaints and described the protest as a group suicide attempt.
"We have been petitioning for so many years, but either we have been dragged back home or locked in secret jails and beaten, and no one has been willing to help us," Wang said. "We felt like there was no hope left."
The petitioners each drank about 50 millilitres of pesticide, Wang said, and laid on the ground until police arrived, bundled them into vehicles and drove them to hospital.
As a gesture of protest, they submitted a letter to the Wuhan municipal petition office last month, seeking permission to "commit suicide collectively" as they were hopeless after three years of unsuccessfully petitioning against the demolition.
Their homes in Wuhan were forcibly demolished by the government in 2010 after they failed to reach an agreement with the government on compensation.
Additional reporting by Staff Reporter