Beijing: Ten people, including three minors, who illegally imprisoned 11 petitioners in Beijing last year have been sent to jail by a Chinese court, in a rebuff to the dreaded high handed approach of officials in treating harried citizens.
The ten convicted received jail sentences ranging from six months to two years. The three minors received suspended jail sentences of six to 10 months, Beijing Chaoyang District People`s Court said.
Wang Gaowei and his nine accomplices all natives of the city of Yuzhou in central China`s Henan province had falsely imprisoned the 11 petitioners, also from Henan, in April, 2012, in two courtyards in Wangsiying township in Beijing`s Chaoyang district for two to six days before being arrested by police on May 2.
They were apparently carrying petitions complaining against local officials, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Apart from the the jail sentences, the criminals will also have to pay each petitioner between 1,300 yuan (USD 208) and 2,400 yuan (USD 385) in compensation, the court said.
"I was reluctant to get in the car, but they forcibly threw me into it," said Jin Hongjuan, a woman who was among the 11 petitioners, who were in Beijing to air grievances regarding compensation paid by local governments in Henan for forced demolitions.
Chinese who are unsatisfied with local governments` responses to their complaints sometimes choose to take their protests to higher-level governments in Beijing.
Their gripes are often centred around disputes regarding compensation for forced demolitions and relocations, which are usually conducted by local governments to make way for new construction projects.
Local governments that feel vulnerable to such protests take matters into their own hands, trying all means to stop the petitioners, the report said.
Those sentenced including the minors were hired as security guards. However there was no reference to those who hired them to crackdown on the petitioners.
The issue of petitioners has become politically serious as last September an angry and disgruntled Chinese villager- turned-suicide bomber had detonated a pack of explosives strapped to his waist killing himself and six others in eastern China`s Shandong province.
He was apparently frustrated over his inability to hand over a petition to concerned officials about his problem.
The verdict will help to protect petitioners` rights, said Shen Kui, a Peking University Law School professor. Petitioners` lawful rights, especially those related to personal freedom, should be protected.
Local governments should strive to make it easier for petitioners to make their voices heard and refrain from illegally detaining them, Shen said.