ZHENGZHOU - Six local officials have been punished after a tourist traveling to Beijing was mistaken as a petitioner, brutally beaten and brought back to his home province, authorities said on Saturday.
A district official in the city of Luo-yang, Henan province, also visited the victim, Zhao Zhipei, at home and apologized, after the incident triggered an outpouring of anger on the Internet over the treatment of petitioners.
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 Sept 15. A group of people barged into his hotel room and dragged him, along with three petitioners from Henan, to a van headed 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.
Local authorities on Saturday said people from a Beijing security firm commissioned by the local letters and calls offices in Luoyang were responsible for the beating.
Yang Qi, the letters and calls office head, was removed from his 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 feel their complaints are 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 have been frequently reported by local media.
In January, Premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls and told officials to be responsible and dedicated to addressing people's complaints, and act as a channel for the public to criticize and supervise the government.
Wen was the first Chinese premier to visit the state complaints bureau to have face-to-face communication with petitioners.
Wen told the bureau's workers to respond to complaints lawfully and with ardor to neutralize the petitioners' negative emotions, such as depression, and to better reflect their will.
(China Daily 09/25/2011 page2)