Police on Wednesday blocked a Chinese family from holding a news conference in Beijing to publicize complaints of police brutality in their village.
Members of the Feng family invited reporters to a Beijing hotel but said police from their home province warned them against doing so. Two family members and another villager were questioned by Beijing police and prevented from leaving their hotel.
Stories like the Fengs’ are becoming more common in China, where police abuses are reported frequently and the communist government tries to control information. Hundreds of people travel to Beijing each year to file complaints and often write to reporters.
They also underscore the tense situation in many Chinese villages, where residents complain about collusion between police and local officials in offering allegedly unfair compensation for land requisitioned by the state for lucrative construction projects.
A deadly clash, an uncertain death toll
Earlier this month residents of the village of Dongzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province clashed with police over land seizures for a power plant. The government said three villagers died when security forces opened fire on protesters. Villagers say the death toll may have been as high as 20.
By the government’s count, China had more than 70,000 cases of rural unrest last year, and protests are growing more violent, with injuries on both sides.
In the Fengs’ case, the family showed unusual determination and media savvy in making their complaints known, setting up a new conference and faxing invitations to foreign reporters.
The Fengs and their fellow villager complain that police where they live in Xiong County, 50 miles from Beijing in Hebei province, beat two of them and refused to pursue complaints of rape and assault.
The event Wednesday was the second time in a month that police blocked the family from holding a news conference about their complaints.
Feng Shuangxi, 29, said by mobile telephone that police followed him on Tuesday as he drove to Beijing from Xiong county.
When Feng’s mother, older sister and their fellow villager gathered at a downtown hotel on Wednesday to talk to reporters, more than a dozen Beijing police came to their room and began questioning them.
Beijing police told an Associated Press reporter to leave the hotel.
Taken away by police
Feng Shuangxi later said Hebei police took the three women away and he did not know where they went.
Before the Beijing police arrived, Feng’s sister, Feng Jianhuan, 32, complained that Xiong County police refused to act on her claims that she was raped twice at the age of 15.
Feng’s mother, Tian Qiuluan, 62, said police hit and threatened her after she repeatedly asked them to arrest the alleged rapist.
Liu Jing, another farmer from Xiong County, said police pulled her hair, beat her and kicked her in the abdomen on Dec. 20 after she filed an assault complaint against a local man.
Liu said she required 20 stitches after the man slashed her on the face in October 2004. She said police told her to drop the case because the assailant was a family friend of the local police chief.
Liu, 53, said she traveled to Beijing earlier this week to seek medical help for bleeding that has not stopped since she was kicked and to tell her story to the media.
“If even the police kick us, then how can we protect ourselves?” she said.
A woman who answered the phone at the Xiong county Public Security Bureau and would only give her surname, Wang, said she had never heard of Feng’s or Liu’s case.