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Wei Lihui was repeatedly beaten, detained, framed for a crime he did not commit and had his houses demolished for reporting a corrupt village Party secretary.
As with many things related to the rights of China’s citizens, the government’s efforts to fight corrupt officials seems to be just on paper. In reality, whistleblowers frequently face brutal retaliation.
During the first week since its opening on June 22, 2009, China’s government corruption hotline “12309” was overloaded by people seeking to report officials: more than 11,000 telephoned and 6,000 reported online about suspected corruption in that first week. In the following year, a total of 290,000 online reports had been received, involving 7,074 county-level or higher officials. However, according to the 2010 data, nearly 70 percent of whistleblowers have faced retaliation, Supreme People’s Procuratore officials admitting that revenge is also practiced covertly, through “seemingly legal” means.
It is very unlikely that this number has decreased since then, as is witnessed by a villager from eastern-central coastal China’s Jiangsu Province.
Wei Lihui, a resident of Taohe village (under the jurisdiction of Weiji town in Suining county of Xuzhou city, runs a restaurant business. On two occasions in 2016, he used his real name to report corruption by village Party secretary Hua Chunwu to the town government. Since CCP officials shield each other, the town government did nothing about the matter. As a result, Hua Chunwu held a grudge against Wei, and in March 2017, started his rampage.
Framed for theft, house demolished
On March 8, 2017, the local government carried out forced demolition and relocation of houses in the village. The authorities claimed that the 220-square-meter house where Wei Lihui resided at the time was an “illegal construction” and would be forcibly demolished, with no compensation given.
Wei refused to relocate, because he had a homestead certificate – a proof of entitlement, establishing that he legally owns the house built over a decade ago and the land.
In order to force Wei to give in, on March 18, Hua Chunwu colluded with officers from the local police station to frame Wei for theft that he did not commit. The officers came to Wei’s house to arrest him. Since Wei argued with them, he was beaten up. Wei’s octogenarian mother was not spared as well: the police kicked her down into a ditch.
The police forcibly escorted Wei to the police station and beat him again. One police officer, an accomplice of Hua Chunwu, shouted at Wei while beating him, “Let’s see if you still dare to report us!” Wei was detained for 24 hours.
Depressed about his son’s misfortunes, Wei’s octogenarian father suddenly died on June 3, even though he was in good health before his son’s detention.
On July 9, eight thugs forcibly removed two surveillance cameras from the entrance of Wei’s other residence and beat up Wei’s wife who was about to call the police to report the incident.
“We have the Communist Party backing us. We’re not afraid of you reporting us. We work for the Communist Party,” one of the thugs said while leaving.
Shortly after they left, more than 100 personnel – including police officers, urban management officers, and real estate developers – showed up and forcibly demolished the house. All of the furniture and other items in the house were crushed by an excavator, resulting in losses of more than 40,000 RMB (about $6,000).
Viciously beaten and detained for petitioning
Feeling deeply aggrieved, in September 2017, Wei Lihui made repeated trips to provincial capital Nanjing and Beijing to petition higher authorities, but to no avail.
After finding out about this, on the evening of October 6, Hua Chunwu gathered four thugs to beat him with wooden sticks outside his house. Hua Chunwu held a stick against Wei’s head and said, “I’ll beat you until you’re crippled, and then we’ll see if you still go to petition the authorities. Even if you call the police, it would be useless. Later, I’ll come back to beat the young and old in your family.” The attack left Wei covered in cuts and bruises, and he had to crawl back into the house.
However, Wei did not abandon his pursuit to uphold his rights. In mid-October, holding a cane, he sought to travel to Beijing to petition the authorities, but the local police station learned about this and arrested him. He was accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” and detained for 15 days.
At the police station, an officer said with no scruples, “Everyone knows that secretary Hua hired thugs to beat you and smash up your home, but what can you do about it? [The government] can’t punish him.”
Beaten again and forced to sign relocation agreement
On January 14, 2018, Wei Lihui went to Beijing again to petition the State Bureau of Letters and Calls. He felt a glimmer when personnel in Beijing said that they would resolve the issue for him and told him to return home. But as soon as he stepped out of the Bureau, eight strangers forced him into a vehicle and drove onto the highway.
Everything that Wei was carrying – 800 RMB (about $120) in cash, his cellphone, and various documents—were snatched by the eight thugs. With iron knuckles on their hands, they viciously beat Wei until he knelt on the highway begging for mercy and acknowledged that he had made a mistake. The thugs forced him to promise not to petition the authorities anymore, recording his statement on video that they sent to the office in Beijing.
In February, the local government made a deal with Wei, giving him a petition subsidy of 30,000 RMB (about $4,460), and intimidated him into agreeing not to petition the authorities again in writing, by telephone, or any other form. Wei was also forced to sign the demolition and relocation agreement.
On April 1, Wei Lihui’s 220-square-meter house was forcibly demolished. The government did not provide any compensation.
Wei also said that from August 2017 until the end of March 2018, the government continuously blocked local residents from going to his restaurant, undermining his family’s livelihood.
After Wei’s son wrote an online post about his family’s ordeal, police forcibly detained him for seven days.
Because the beatings caused injuries to his leg muscles and bones, to date, Wei Lihui is unable to stand for long periods of time and has lost the ability to work.