In Communist China, where the law is used to abuse power, those with the right connections can get away with murder in broad daylight.
by Li Guang
Elderly fortune-teller beaten to death
Zheng Baoju from Zhenggou village, administered by Gongyi city in the central province of Henan, used to tell people’s fortunes at a stall on the street. On April 30, the 71-year-old disabled man was beaten to death by an urban management officer.
An eyewitness gave Bitter Winter an account of the incident. At about 10 a.m. that day, Zheng Baoju set up his stall in Zhengzhou’s Shangjie district. Two urban management officers soon approached him, and one of them scolded Mr. Zheng for setting up the stall and confiscated his signboard. When he tried to take it back, the officer gave Mr. Zheng a hard blow, knocking him down. A fortune teller working nearby approached the officers, reprimanding them for hurting the elderly man, but they swiftly left.
Mr. Zheng was lying on the ground motionless, so people called an ambulance. But when it came, he was already dead.
Four local police station officers came to investigate the incident. Three eyewitnesses confirmed to them that an urban management officer beat Zheng Baoju. The officers took one of them, also a fortune-teller, to the station to record his statement. But when he left, his story has changed completely: he no longer maintained that the officer’s beating was the cause of Mr. Zheng’s death. He even refused to tell the truth to the son of the deceased.
With Zheng Baoju dead on the ground, police officers are conducting an investigation:
“If you tell the truth in China, government officials will make trouble for you, and make a false charge against you for telling on law enforcement officers,” an onlooker commented. “You’ll definitely get into trouble. Who then dares to tell the truth?”
No justice for a killed rights’ defender
Since the autumn of 2017, the Tiansheng Mining Company has been drilling outside Shichang village in the Lishu district of Jixi, a city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The company used explosives to dig deeper into the ground, blasts reverberating throughout the village every day. Cracks appeared on some houses, and villagers started fearing for the safety of their property. Not only that, but they were also worried about the state of their mental health because of the constant vibrations and loud sounds.
Village residents reported the situation to the local government, but officials said that the company had all legal mining licenses, and warned them not to disturb its operations.
Having no support from the state, villagers decided to defend their rights themselves. On March 29, 2018, a large group of residents went to the Tiansheng Mining Company and blocked some of its trucks. The company’s management ignored the villagers, so they decided to remain on site until someone listens to their grievances.
At 6 a.m. on April 1, as villagers were camping outside the company for three consecutive days, a driver got into one of the trucks and started driving away. Sun Zongchun, a 38-year-old village resident, and two other villagers ran toward the vehicle in an attempt to stop it. To everyone’s horror, the driver didn’t stop but continued driving directly at the three protestors. Mr. Sun had no time to evade the impact and was knocked down and run over by the 50-ton truck.
“Sun Zongchun’s body was badly mutilated. His brains were scattered on the ground, and his eyes and heart were thrown more than 3 meters away,” a villager who witnessed the incident recounted to Bitter Winter, still traumatized by the experience. He added that the driver came out of the truck and calmly lit a cigarette. He then made a call on his cellphone and told someone, “I ran over a person.” The driver hung up and said quite loudly to no one in particular that he ran over a person last year, but he was not punished because his brother was an officer at the Public Security Bureau. After these words, he got into the truck and left, as if nothing had happened.
According to a source, three days after the incident, the Lishu district’s head showed up at the village, accompanied by police officers and people from a funeral parlor, promising justice for the deceased. But as soon as Mr. Sun’s body was taken away, the official started scolding villagers, saying that they were the ones who broke the law by blocking the company’s trucks. One of the officers grabbed a villager by his shirt collar and threatened to beat him if he disobeyed.
Afraid of impending consequences, the villagers had to give up defending their rights.