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An Uncertain Future

July 21, 2011

An Out-of-town Petitioner in Beijing. Near Beijing South Railway Station, March 2, 2010. Photo by Yang Qiuyu.

Editors’ Note: Many of the petitioners in Beijing are from all over the country. Unable to get justice from their local courts or governments, they bring their grievances to the highest-level petition authority, the State Bureau for Letters and Calls (SBLC), under the General Office of the State Council. Most of them cannot afford to stay in hotels and sleep on the street or in makeshift shelters. Many stay in Beijing for months or even years, waiting for their grievances to be heard and cases resolved. In 2003, the head of SBLC said that more than 80 percent of petitions had merit. But according to statistics compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2004, only about 0.2 percent of the cases petitioned were actually resolved through petitioning. Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as part of the city’s beautification campaign, the authorities demolished the “Petition Village,” an area near the Beijing South Railway Station, where out-of-town petitioners congregated and made their temporary homes in tents.

Elderly Henan Petitioner in Beijing during the “Two Congresses.” Near Beijing South Railway Station, March 21, 2011. Photo by Anonymous.

Photographer’s Note: Around the time of the annual “Two Congresses” of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in March 2011, and because of the calls for Jasmine Rallies, the authorities detained a large number of people who traveled to Beijing to petition. The majority of the petitioners detained during this time in Beijing were taken to a black jail in the Jiujingzhuang area and then sent back to their hometowns. Pictured here is an elderly woman from Henan, who was determined to stay at her spot near the Beijing South Station, patiently awaiting the chance, albeit very slim, to get justice.

Petitioners Sleeping outside in a Blizzard. Beijing, March 7, 2010. Photo by Wang Qi.

Photographer’s Note: The petitioners here had to sleep in the open because hotels wouldn’t accept them and they had no money. Yet the authorities often destroy or confiscate the things they use to keep warm, making it extremely hard for the petitioners to make it through the winter.

Uyghur Petitioners. Near Beijing South Railway Station, June 2, 2009. Photo by Anonymous.

Photographer’s Note: These Uyghur petitioners, Han petitioners, are living in an underground passageway. This man did not speak Chinese, and could tell me his story only with his expression of anguish.

Henan Petitioner outside Her “Home.” Beijing, September 23, 2010. Photo by Anonymous.

Photographer’s Note: This woman has petitioned for many years without results. She now lives in a shack near the State Bureau for Letters and Calls and the National People’s Congress Office of Letters and Calls. She said that she did not receive adequate compensation for her home that was demolished and the land that was taken away by local authorities.

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