Veteran petitioner gets chance to hear people’s grievances

By The Beijing News Source:Agencies Published: 2014-7-25 5:03:02

Li Huacheng carries a stack of petition papers. Photo: CFP

 At around 9 am on a Tuesday, Li Huacheng rode his electric bike to the Qingyang District Bureau for Letters and Calls in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and lined up to register at the reception hall.

"Please deal with my issue according to the law," he said to the worker at the window. Then he made his way to the other side of the hall, went into an office and sat behind the sign "Li Huacheng, Complaint Mediator." Li had turned from a petitioner into someone who receives them, The Beijing News reported.

That dramatic scene repeated itself from October last year to January this year.

Li is a veteran petitioner. He often appeared at the reception hall from 2009 to May 2013, and the experience even won him a "job" - the bureau hired him for 800 yuan ($128.08) a month to mediate petitioners' issues.

But after four months in the office, Li started appearing at the reception hall again on Tuesdays, choosing to go back to the petitioner's lifestyle, according to The Beijing News.

Headache for bureau

In 2007, the Qingyang district government requisitioned seven mu of Li's contracted land. Because there was no agreement reached between the government and Li on the number of trees on the land, no compensation plan was agreed upon.

In June 2009, the buildings on Li's contracted land were requisitioned. That's when he started petitioning, he told The Beijing News.

Li has been to the district, city and provincial governments so many times that he has lost count. Besides these visits, he goes to Beijing once a year to air his grievances, he said.

At first, he only had conflicts with the government on the issue of land requisition fees. But that conflict snowballed while he petitioned. When he came back from petitioning in Beijing in 2009, the Qingyang district police bureau detained him for "illegally carrying evidence." In 2011, Li's son applied for military school and was rejected after a background check was carried out.

In the face of these difficulties, Li asked the Qingyang district government for a million yuan in compensation, but was turned down.

There was even an official in the street committee office who personally told Li, "You are a headache for the district's offices," Li told The Beijing News.

Official transformation

On a Tuesday in September 2013, Xie Yu, the Qingyang district petition bureau director, intercepted Li as he was walking out of the reception hall, and suggested he work at the bureau.

Li's first response was, "That's a joke, right?" he told The Beijing News.

A few days later, Xie asked Li to come to the bureau and outlined the job specifics. It wasn't complicated.  All he had to do was sit in a room next to the reception hall every Tuesday morning and receive petitioners for a monthly salary of 800 yuan.

Li told The Beijing News that Xie wanted him to inform petitioners of the law and persuade them to go through the judicial process instead of petitioning. He had the advantage of having studied the law since being detained in 2009.

Considering that he needs to go to the bureau to petition anyway, plus the fact that the 800 yuan could help out his family, he decided to take the job.

The second Tuesday in October 2013, Li sat in his office. Xue Mingyuan, another petitioner, told The Beijing News that he remembers the workers in the reception hall calling Li "Director."

Li has a way of dealing with petitioners. "First, I listen to them. Then I use my own experience and give them tips from legal and rational perspectives," he said.

Petitioners who had mediation by Li told The Beijing News that even though they knew Li didn't have any actual power, when they found out he was himself a petitioner previously, they were less resistant.

Double life

But Li has not had success with every petitioner. Soon, he started discovering that there were problems with his new job.

Every Tuesday, Li receives four or five petitioners. The job didn't bring him fulfillment because he didn't have any actual power and he was unable to do anything for the petitioners.

When petitioner Tan Wei first came to Li, he brought Tan to district officials and asked them to address his problems. But Tan's problems were never solved, even months later.

The bureau officials also assigned Li a secretary. Later, Li found out that whatever he said, the district officials soon found out about it.

But what was even more depressing to Li was the fact that some of the petitioners he used to know began distancing themselves from him after he became a director. In November 2013, Li's acquaintance Xu Efen came to the petition office and was surprised to see Li as director in the mediator room.

Li explained to Xu the policies concerning her case and suggested she go through the judicial process. Xu then asked whether Li's own problems had been solved. Li answered no, making Xu angry.

"Your own butt is bleeding, yet you try to cure us of hemorrhoids?" she asked.

In January this year, Li resigned. He never went back to the bureau for work.

After resigning, he returned to his old life. He planted in the fields, took on short term jobs and in his free time he petitioned. Never again did anyone call him director.

When he first started the job, he suggested to many petitioners that they should go through legal channels. But when he became a petitioner again, he found that these channels may not work.

In 2012, he sued the government at Qingyang District People's Court over compensation issues. It was denied. Afterwards, Li could only go through the petition process.

On June 24, Li went back to the bureau again to keep petitioning. When he saw an official he once knew, he went up to him and presented himself.

The official simply asked Li to line up at the window. At half an hour past noon, Li still had not been received.

The Beijing News

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