China punishes six officials after tourist beaten up


Beijing: Six officials have been punished after a tourist travelling to Beijing was mistaken as a petitioner, brutally beaten and brought back to his home province, authorities said Saturday.

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A district official in the city of Luoyang, Henan province, also visited the tourist Zhao Zhipei at home and apologised after the incident led to an outcry on the Internet over treatment of petitioners, reported Xinhua.

Zhao was staying in a hotel close to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the country’s top complaint hearing office, on the night of Sep 15 when a group of people barged into the hotel room and dragged him, along with three petitioners from Henan, to a van heading for Luoyang.

Zhao was brutally beaten on the way back to Luoyang, officials said. Newspaper reports published a picture of an unconscious Zhao in rags lying by the roadside in Luoyang.

Authorities Saturday said people of a Beijing security firm commissioned by local letters and calls offices under Luoyang were responsible for the beating.

Yang Qi, a letters and calls office head, was removed from the post.

Another official, Dong Xianwei, was suspended from work, while four others received warnings, authorities said.

In China, the department for letters and calls at various levels functions as a place to collect and report public grievances. Petitioners who find their complaints not listened to at grass-roots offices sometimes march to Beijing to file their complaints.

Cases of petitioners being rounded up and brought back to their home provinces were frequently reported by local media.

In January, Premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit to the the State Bureau for Letters and Calls and asked officials to be responsible and dedicated to addressing people’s complaints, as a channel for the public to criticise and supervise the government.

Wen was the first Chinese premier to visit the state complaints bureau to have face-to-face communication with petitioners.