Premier Wen Jiabao's encounter with eight petitioners on Monday was staged, one person who witnessed it says.
'What you saw on television was not the real situation,' said a hostel operator who was outside the State Bureau for Letters and Calls touting her hostel to petitioners.
She said the bureau's entrance had been tightly guarded on Monday afternoon, when Wen visited the office in Yongdingmenxi Street.
'There was a poster at the entrance saying the computer system was out of order that afternoon and they couldn't receive petitions,' she said. 'Security guards chased away petitioners. If they refused to leave they were thrown into two buses parked on the other side of the road.
'Uniformed and plain-clothes police were everywhere on the street. Ordinary petitioners could not get in and I do not see how these eight petitioners got inside if they were just ordinary petitioners.'
She said she had not seen Wen's entourage arrive and they probably had entered through a hotel connected to the bureau.
Another hostel operator confirmed the poster and heavy security presence but said some petitioners had stayed in the office long enough to meet Wen and one even 'shook hands' with him.
Reporters flocked to the bureau yesterday, hoping to talk to those fortunate enough to have had their complaints heard by Wen, but were stopped by security guards.