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On 1st August 2011 the Sydney Chinese Consul General accepted my letter. Time passes, without response from China. A clear message to All of the Chinese lack of concern for an (ANY) Australian's Legal Rights. Consequently my campaign has escalated..
My other letter to Chinese Ambassador Canberra 13.9.2011 remains unanswered. Typical response.


In China it is very easy to fall foul of the Law. In some circumstances standing on a footpath taking photographs is sufficient. Asking for directions can be an interesting experience. Even just entering a public building can be turned into an event by officialdom!

Security Guards at Shenyang City Court, home base for Mr. Gao, told us that he was not at the Court but at a Letters and Visits Office just down the road a few hundred metres away. We should attempt to see him there because no-one knew when he would return to the Court. Very helpful, as usual.

We walked about 500 metres to the Letters and Visits Office, situated on the corner of a small street and the main road. We attempted to enter through the front door but, as it was only about 8.15am or so, the office was not open for business. We went into the side-street to wait and my wife engaged in conversation with a group of people also waiting to go inside. With time on my hands and an empty stomach I crossed the side street to a cafe and bought some dumplings for breakfast. The aim was to fill in time and my empty stomach. The meal was just so so but good enough. On my return a man in a wheelchair signaled that he'd like his photo taken. I never took close-ups of people without their permission, consequently, I had very few of them. The ones I have are of family, petitioners or friends and they will remain private.

I took up his offer and he sat in his chair and held up a newspaper page and a card just under his chin. Three photographs later he was satisfied. Then, with still time to kill, I focused my attention on the intersection, fascinated by the different modes of transport passing through it.

TV home delivery. Cafe over the road and main
intersection to the left. I am not blocking traffic
The front entrance to the Letters and Visits office was on a small rise. I had noticed several men with black trousers and white shirts watching what I was doing from "the hill". A small, plump woman had an animated conversation with them and then moved down into the group where my wife was. I hoped my wife was not saying anything this woman informant would pass on to officials.

Outside the Letters and Visits office. Four Petitioners on
the right. I am not blocking traffic
I was amazed by the ingenuity of the people and the solutions they found for transporting things around the city. The man and his wife transporting the large television is an example but not the most innovative means that I saw. Men pushed three wheel bike carts laden with all sorts of items piled high, well above their heads. How they could see to ride was beyond me. Small trucks went past with similar large loads. In Australia these would all be illegal. The "perfect traffic shot" did not present itself so only three photographs were taken after many futile attempts.

I will never forget a man I saw wheeling his bicycle toward Shenyang, on my first visit in 2008, with a refrigerator strapped to it.

I moved back from the corner to join my wife in the side-street. I stared back at the men on the "hill" who were staring at me. Their numbers had grown. That must have been the signal for them to come down from the hill and invite my wife and I inside. What luck, I thought, we will make some progress in my wife's illegal civil Court case today! So many officials actually taking an interest, too!

There were about fifteen men and they shepherded us into the building through a side door near the petitioners shown in the photo. We had to go up a level or two and some of them had to take another lift. Too many people to fit into one.

We were taken to a large room. A long, highly polished table ran down the middle of the room with well spaced comfortable chairs placed around it. Bottled water was at each sitting. We all sat down, my wife and I at at the end on one side and the officials occupied the other seats. So different to the sparse Interview rooms we had met Mr. Gao in at the City Court. As usual, I was at a major disadvantage, with next to no China language skills.

The intersection. Not as many bicycles in 2010 compared
to 2008. I am not blocking the traffic.
Only a few officials spoke and the rest just observed. A man with a video camera was preparing to take a video record of the meeting but I advised them, through my wife, that that was not considered necessary. A brief delay and a few words later the interview continued with the absence of the photographer. Mr. Gao, it appeared, was not in the building but was being summoned to come. General discussion took place about the Court Case and current events. After about twenty minutes two City Policemen came into the room and the Officials quickly waved them to go back outside.

At that point I knew that we were not waiting for Mr. Gao but for something or someone else. Police never attended at our discussions with Mr. Gao. Within about ten minutes Police did arrive with a woman to act as an Interpreter. The Police introduced themselves as Internal Affairs Police.The woman asked a question and I replied sharply. A bit too sharply, perhaps. "I am your friend here." She protested. "We have no friends in this room." I replied. She was not there to help us. My wife was fluent in Mandarin and we were talking to Chinese Police. Obviously , the Interpreter was there to listen to anything my wife and I said to each other in English and relay that to the Police who had limited English skills.

The Senior Policeman asked the questions, mostly directed at my wife. "You were blocking the traffic. Taking your photos." He said to me.  "I suppose if the traffic on the road wanted to drive on the footpath I would have been blocking the traffic." I answered.  "What to do you do in Australia?" "None of your business." I answered, "But I'll tell you what I am doing here." "Yes?" He must have thought that he had a Western spy sitting opposite him about to tell all. "I am here to give my wife safety, help and support while she attempts to resolve her illegal Civil Court case." The disappointment swept over his face. No Western spy here, only a foreign Petitioner. "But I think you are interested in my photographs?" He agreed and I offered the camera for them to see the photographs. How lucky I was to have emailed yesterday's photographs and reformatted the drive. There was no evidence of the "sensitive building" and other non-tourist type subjects I had taken on the camera SD card. "You cannot have the photographs of the man in the wheelchair. They are not considered tourist type photographs." The woman interpreter said. No problem, I deleted the photographs and returned the camera to them  "You cannot have the photograph of the man and woman." "You have to be joking." I said, as there was nothing non-tourist about the photo of the man, his wife and the television set. She checked the photograph, "You are right. You can keep that one."  They missed the photograph taken down the street showing four petitioners standing at the far end of the building.

"Is there anything you would like to say?"Asked the Senior Policeman in English. "Yes", my wife said, "We must ALL obey the law." There was a general murmur of accent that we should all obey the Law. My wife was telling them that they had broken the Law by depriving us of our liberty for no Lawful reason. The meeting finished and we were shown from the building using another side entrance near where the Petitioners are shown in the photograph. We had been held for several hours.So much trouble to see Mr. Gao.
Taken near illegal Shenhe District Peoples Court. Goods
transportation. These men work hard fortheir money.

Information obtained later. The man in the wheelchair wanted his story told, Internationally. I was not aware when he held up the newspaper page with his photograph on it that that was why he wanted his photograph taken. The newspaper was in Chinese and I had no idea it was a story about his home and injury. I do not know who he thought I was but he telephoned my wife's mobile telephone several times afterward to arrange a meeting. We did not take him up on the invitation. His house had been demolished and he became a Petitioner. He was sent to gaol and there he was seriously injured. The Government gave him a wheelchair and an Invalid Card. In 2010 he was still trying to get compensation for his forced eviction, demolished house and for his injury.

In Australia it's OK to take photographs of prisons. Parramatta and East Maitland Gaols have been photographed countless times. Perhaps the Australian convict History and background kindles interest in gaols.
East Maitland Gaol entrance. There were some public
hangings and Prisoners were hung at this gate
My interest was more base. I just wanted to compare the different building structures between China and Australia. Roofs design, in particular. interested me.

I have included the photograph of East Maitland Gaol for the benefit of the China Government. I hope they see a normal prison building. Nothing out of the ordinary. I took many photographs of the interior and exterior the building and it was not overwhelmed with "sensitivity". The only remarkable event was that the well charged camera battery went dead inside the gaol, forcing me to cut short my visit, but returned to normal when I moved outside. Eerie, that. Maybe the ghosts of dead inmates were interfering? Maybe some dirty battery contacts were cleared when I removed and replaced the battery. I was using a film camera at that time and had not transitioned to the now popular digital photography. Digital cameras were used in China.

My wife knew a Policeman, an old schoolfriend, and she asked him if it would be OK to film the outside of two prisons near to Shenyang. Providing we did not attempt to go inside there would be no problem, he said.

Parramatta Gaol, Sydney
Bolstered by this friendly advice we decided to go to the gaols and take the photos confident that all would be well. It was planned to be a welcome break from our usual round of Letters and Visits Offices and Court Houses. We traveled quite a distance by ordinary bus across Shenyang to a bus depot, for an hour or so it seemed. The depot was a confused collection of bus parking areas occupying a muddy and busy corner of the city. I think signs, here and there, assisted passengers to locate their bus because my wife found ours without too much difficulty, picking her way through the maze of buses and mud pools. The buses were small,about twenty passenger capacity and they served the rural community. Our small bus would take us to the village nearest to the gaols and from there we would have to find other transport.

We left the bus at the intersection of a road that led off into farmland. Some three wheeled "taxis" waited there for prospective customers. My wife haggled about prices with the drivers but decided they were too expensive. They were charging "Foreigner Rates". We decided to walk and made a start down the road for a hundred metres or so. We asked directions from people walking past us, in the opposite direction, and were told the gaols were several kilometres away. We returned to the taxi drivers and haggled a competitive price.

Berrima Gaol, Berrima NSW
We traveled on and on, the small taxi engine shrilly announcing our advance through the farmland and the driver delivered a commentary along the way. I understood none of it, of course. The road was flanked by trees most of the way. At last we came to the first gaol. It was the Women's and it was down a driveway, several hundred metres long, off to our left. I unraveled out of the small conveyance and crossed the road to take my photographs. There was a huge statue of a woman with arms folded standing just near the front of the main building. Only empty ground between it and the roadway. I was impressed by the monument and had seen nothing like it in Australia. It was not an admiring piece of art, rather rough, really but the size and pose of the monument was interesting. The gaol itself was just an unimpressive large box shape building,of about four storeys. I noticed a couple of women near it's entrance. I took two photographs, one using the zoom and one showing the building more as it actually was from where I was standing. It was good to stretch the legs and I was in no hurry to get back into the taxi. The taxi driver appeared anxious to move on and with my wife's insistence I forfeited my leg stretching and we resumed our journey.

On we went, further through farmland with the odd home here and there. We passed a small Police Station on our right. At the time I wondered how busy the Police would be in this area with so few people living in it. The gaol building came into view. A high wall surrounded it and a view to the grounds inside was impossible. We turned right down a small side road and reached the gaol. It was not very impressive as gaols go. It had two large doors blocking entry (and escape) at the front with an awning running across the top of them. The doors were closed. A guard advised me to move away from the doors because the awning was dangerous. It might fall on me. The walls had more razor wire, or similar, strung across them compared to Australian gaols I have seen.  I took two photos and one of the Administration building on the other side of the road. It was hot and with little shade we decided to return and find our way home.

We went about five metres before a Policeman stood in front of the taxi and told the driver to stop. Damn, now what! WTF!  I went to get out but he motioned for us to stay inside while he talked on his mobile phone. I waited while several more men arrived. Some in civilian clothes and others wearing prison guard uniforms. The heat in the taxi was reaching a very uncomfortable level and, disregarding the order to stay put and the throng of men surrounding us, I got out and walked to the shade of a tree just on the side of the road. My wife joined me but the taxi driver stayed inside his taxi. More WTF. And a bit more WTF. For those unfamiliar with WTF.. it is Australian swearing. I was doing a lot of that. Hot, bothered and angry that such a fuss was being made of taking photographs, I let fly a torrent of swear words!
I suggested that I delete the B***y photos! "You can get them back off the card!" replied a man in civilian clothes. Quite tall for a Chinese AND he spoke English. "Bullshit!", I replied. On our return to Australia I located software that would restore deleted files IF the SD card had not been re-formatted. He was correct and I was wrong. Meanwhile the first Policeman's telephone was running hot with conversation.

A small Police van arrived with about four Policemen in it. They were from the small Police station we had passed on the way to the gaol. We were invited to go with them and it was an invitation we could not refuse. We arrived at the Police station and they took our statements. The poor Taxi driver was quite shaken by the ordeal and we stressed that he had no idea what we were doing and that he was just our taxi driver. After an hour or so since our initial detention it was decided that I must surrender the SD card from the camera. I said, "You can have the photographs of the gaol but you cannot have the others they are mine."  Yes, they were my property and they were not entitled to keep them. They would copy my photographs onto a new SD card and they would keep my old card. OK? Yes, I was satisfied with that.

Shenyang Historic CCP Building.
One of the photos on the naughty SD card
We sat and waited while they transferred the photographs. A problem arose. I had a four gigabyte SD card but they could only get an eight gigabyte SD card to replace it with, would that be OK? Double the capacity. "Yes." We waited for them to go to the supplier and return with the card (or we were just kept waiting). Another problem. Apparently our camera SD card had a virus on it and had corrupted their computer. Our card had only ever been used in our laptop so a "virus" was quite unexpected. How sad. It would take awhile to sort out the mess. My wife insisted that she was given a contact telephone number to telephone back about progress with the return of the photographs. We were given a number, our new eight gigabyte SD card and our freedom. We were told to get the necessary approval to take photographs in future. Typical of China the information you receive is as flawed as the person or Department giving you the information. My wife's Policeman friend was indeed flawed. Some of our photographs were of the Shenyang Communist Party Headquarters historic building and some new inductees into the Communist Party. We would not have the opportunity to take similar photographs again. We did not get a photograph of the modern Communist Party Building because an Army Guard we asked said we couldn't photograph it. It was a "sensitive" building. China suffers from Chronic over sensitivity and is a place where absolute Power breeds corruption.

After four or five weeks our photographs were emailed to us by the Police. The eight gigabyte SD card continues to provide excellent service. I still cannot stop smiling about the infection of their computer system caused by the camera SD card. Since arriving back in Australia and, with access to much more information, we can reasonably assume that he prisons house Falun Gong prisoners. That would explain the Officials' concern with our interest in the gaols.

One day we visited people who were quite a long way from where we were living. It was late by the time we decided to return home and took the long walk from their place to the nearest bus stop. Along the way we came to a busy intersection and an argument that was in full swing between a taxi driver and some people. A crowd of people were watching the spectacle. It appeared to be a dispute between the taxi driver, a fat man, his wife and daughter, over a fare. My wife wanted to break it up before the argument escalated into violence. By the time we crossed the street to the corner, where the argument was taking place, it appeared that the two men would soon come to blows. I told the wife that her screaming was unhelpful. My wife went off to quieten the wife and daughter while I  did my best to keep the two men apart without getting physically involved. I pushed the taxi driver back a few times to keep him away from the fat man and toward his taxi.

The taxi driver returned to his taxi and it appeared that the situation had been defused. The parties were still angry but blows appeared to have been averted. Then the two women ran to the taxi driver sitting in his taxi and punched him very hard around the left ear and neck. The punches sounded very heavy and the two women screamed loudly at the driver. They came back to the rear of the taxi and then raced forward, screaming and hit the taxi driver hard again. The women returned to the footpath and the fat man. Enraged, the taxi driver holding a hand to his head, ran up to the fat man, whereupon, the fat man punched him. My wife was in the middle of the melee so I pulled her away and told her the situation was beyond control and I did not want her hurt. We should leave and we did. We looked back and saw a group of men chasing the taxi driver and attempting to punch and kick him. The driver and his assailants disappeared from our view behind buildings. We heard Police sirens coming to the area.

We continued walking and came out onto another street and made our way to the bus top where several people were already waiting. The bus stop was near a Police Station. Just as we reached the doorway into the Police Station, Policemen and the Taxi driver arrived. The taxi driver recognised us and asked my wife if we would give a statement for him. Of course we would and we followed him and the Police into the building. The fat man's daughter, who spoke English, thanked me for my help in this matter. "Ï don't know about that." I replied. Nothing I could say would help her fat father.

We went upstairs to a room and waited to make a statement. The taxi driver and his friend were in a room toward the end of the corridor to our left.  The fat man and Police were in a nearby room talking in friendly terms, it seemed. The Police came to us and asked my wife what had happened. They went away and then came back and advised that there was no need for us to stay. The taxi driver and the fat man had sorted out their differences and we were not needed. We refused to go. We had come to make statement for the taxi driver and he had not told us that he did not need it. We would give our statement and then we would leave. We were left alone with the mosquitoes for about half an hour and then two policemen returned.

They could not take my statement because there was no interpreter available. No need I said. My wife, a foreigner, was born in China and understood Chinese perfectly. If they were happy she could make her statement. She would read her statement to me and then I would sign a similar statement. We were left in the company of mosquitoes and the fat man who came into the room and sat on a chair near the door. "You know who he is?" My wife asked me. "Yes. but I do not know what he is doing here. Staring at us." The Police returned and the fat man left. He was yelling at or with Policemen in another room.

A Policeman returned and turned on a computer preparing to take our statement. My wife gave him her account of events and then he left the room without typing  single word. Two policemen returned, one much older than the other, and suggested we could leave as the matter had been resolved. No, we would stay and give the statement we had promised the Taxi driver.

Several hours had now passed since we came into the Police station. It was quite clear, considering the behaviour of the Police, that they had made an arrangement with the fat man to his and their benefit. We were making everything very difficult for them. My term given the "fat man"is not intended to be derogatory. People in glass houses should not throw stones. It is a term I use to indicate that the man was rich, powerful and fat. His wallet was also fat with money. The Shenyang Police at this Police Station had no experience with Australians and our belief in doing the Right Thing. In this case the Right Thing was protecting the rights of the Taxi driver.

At last the Policeman returned to his computer, selected the required document and proceeded to take my wife's statement. He wanted to know who threw the first punch. "The fat man." She recounted the whole incident from when we came to the intersection to when we left. The Policeman asked me how it was that the taxi driver was unharmed after so many men were attempting to punch and kick him. "As fighters go they (the crowd of men) were not good fighters. I didn't see any kick or punch land on the taxi driver.We saw only very little of that." We signed our statements and were invited to leave.My wife refused to go without the taxi driver to make sure he had no trouble. So we left together nearly four hours after entering the Police station. The Taxi driver had to pay a fine of 1600 rmb.

There is no doubt the Police were corrupt and that they were trying to get the best result for the fat man. The taxi driver, whose left ear was still ringing from the women's punches, told us what had happened. He was waiting for his wife on the corner where the incident happened. He had his "flag" down showing he was not working or taking fares. The fat man and his wife, who had eaten well at a nearby restaurant, came along and demanded that he take them home. He refused. The fat man's wife became incensed and from there the whole unhappy incident escalated. If we had not stayed to give our statement the taxi driver would have been gaoled for three months and been fined 7500 rmb. He would have been "found guilty" by the Police of punching the fat man.

My wife berated the taxi driver for allowing himself to get into so much trouble. He had a young family at home and, if he had been gaoled, it would have been very hard on them. He gave us a free trip home and made sure we arrived safely inside our apartment before he left.

Later we were offered a free ride by another Shenyang taxi driver for helping the taxi driver but we did not take up the offer and paid. Shenyang Taxi drivers have a hard time and cannot afford to be so generous with fares. My wife thought our taxi driver was fined for punching the fat man's daughter (she was at least twenty years old) and that is why the men went after him.

The next day a man came to our place looking for someone. He did not check the neighbours nearby. "They are letting us know that they know where we live." My wife told me, referring to the fat man and his friends. We would never know how many people around us were Police or other informants. Even people playing a game on the road just a few metres away, who looked harmless, could have been informants. Their shoes were clean and their clothes were good.Out of place, really.


Banner used outside Shenyang City Court
We were having no success with our umbrella "We want to see the Boss" demonstration. The "Boss"had no intention of inviting us in for a discussion.

Futile as it was we needed to demonstrate at the gate so that we could say how the Legal Rights of an Australian were denied and that the Courts had no intention of resolving their illegal 1998 civil court case. We gave them countless opportunities we (correctly) expected them not to take.

Only time and my notoriously meager supply of Patience were used up. I never tired of watching the passing parade watching us and the encounters we had with Petitioners and ordinary Chinese. I could have done without seeing other Petitioners, demonstrating in and outside the Courts' precincts, and how they were treated by Security Guards and Police. (I was listening to Ying Shan Hong as I wrote this. I would make it the Chinese National Anthem,)

We had the banner made and took it to the Court Gate inside our camera bag. We knew we risked going to gaol showing this banner. It was illegal to do that. We reasoned that if we were arrested the International publicity caused by the arrest would draw the more positive International attention we were seeking -  "International Interest in illegal Court Case Grows"!

Our camera bag with notebook and pen "at the ready".
A regular sight for Police and Officials.
We decided that I, the foreigner of clearly  English descent, should show the banner as I was not of Chinese appearance and would grab attention very quickly. It worked perfectly. Within three minutes security guards swarmed around us and attempted to take the banner away. Clearly I would not be able to show the banner for any longer so I put it inside our camera bag away from the guards. What I had in our camera bag was our property and I would not let them have that. I raised my arms with wrists close together, ready for handcuffs, yelling.  "Arrest me! Arrest me!"

Damn! They didn't arrest me. I also needed the banner to be displayed for much longer so that many more people would know why I was being arrested. So we failed in two areas. The banner was aired for only a few scant minutes and I was not arrested. Typical Chinese officials, they never do what you want them to and when you want them to do it. We resumed our umbrella demonstration, disappointed in a happy sort of way.

 There are several offices in Beijing that I grew to hate. This building is top of the List.
The building for lost hopes and lost lives

We lived a stone's throw from this building after we were "evicted" from the much more comfortable hotel accommodation nearer to the centre of Beijing. It is situated basically in the middle of nowhere. The way leading to it was an unsealed dusty potholed track in the dry, a muddy track in the wet and even more difficult track to travel under ice and snow. It was a hell of a road leading to a hell of a place. This Office is referred to in the film "The Petition" and commented on in this Blog. I recommend the film.

I saw so much, in and around this building particularly, that destroyed any allusion I had that the Chinese Legal System and the Courts served the people.  All I saw here was suppression, violence, yelling, screaming, frustration, anger, despair, hopelessness and intimidation, people living very roughly and Petitioners being apprehended and taken away. Officials here would not speak to Foreign Journalists but the Chinese Legal System made me, a foreigner, witness and experience the rottenness of the System. I grew to understand Petitioners very well living as we did, "shoulder to shoulder", with them in this area.

In February 2010 we made this building an urgent point of call. It was necessary to ensure that my wife's illegal civil Court case did not end through lack of prosecution on her behalf. So we went there. Initially I was curious why this major Letters and Visits Office was situated in isolation of mainstream Beijing. It became transparently apparent, as my experiences with this building and other experiences grew, that it's geographic position was purposely intended to channel Petitioners away from the heart of Beijing and the public gaze. Many Chinese have no experience of Petitioners and how they are dealt within the System. The Chinese Government prefers it that way, keeping the population in ignorance as much as possible.

We arrived at the gate early and there was already a large group of people waiting to enter. I caused a flurry of curiosity among Guards and Petitioners as I joined with my wife in the crowd. She explained that she was a foreigner and that I was her Westerner husband. Foreigners never came here. Never went inside this building. This day was to be an exception to both and local history was re-written.

Beijing Letters and Visits Office
 In this photo my wife is standing with the main gates and the smaller entry gates to her left. Vehicles accessed the site through the main gates and the public used the small gates. People were made to form a queue to go inside helped with yelling, pushing and shoving from guards. There was always a large contingent of plain clothed police looking for "illegal" Petitioners in, and around, this building.

We kept very close together as we made our way forward. Inside the courtyard, we were marshaled to an area just near steps that would take us into the building. As we waited a number of officials came out with video and still cameras and took photos of the waiting crowd and the foreigner and his wife. By the time we got inside the building Beijing authorities would be aware of where we were and what we looked like. Photographs would have been given Police and informants so that our future whereabouts could be more easily tracked. We were an unwelcome novelty at that time reverting to just an unwelcome Petitioner and husband as months passed.

Only about sixteen people at a time were allowed inside. Guards with batons held back the queue and plain clothed Police walked along its flanks looking for Petitioners of interest. We made sure we remained together and were not separated by the Guards. Up the steps and inside through the open glass doors to a security area. Pockets had to be emptied and contents placed in trays. Bags were placed on a conveyor belt and put through a scanning machine. My eating fork was "arrested", as it was considered to be a weapon, and  released "in my parole" when we left the building. Our bodies were scanned with hand held scanners. I seemed to be something of an amusement to the female guards. We went to one of the many windows to Register. A middle aged woman wearing the black Court Police uniform with three pips on her shoulders asked my wife , "Why did you bring your husband here. To see the things that happen here? Do not bring him here."  I was not welcome in this building. I would've liked to have asked her "Why do your Courts push me to come here? Do you think I want to be here?" How I regret my lack of Chinese language skills. There are more stories to tell about this place. I went back there time and time again and there was no repeat of the photographic recording by Officials.


We based ourselves in Shenyang during our last few months in China. What could be done in Beijing had been done though we still traveled there as needs arose. Beijing was not my favourite city due to bitter experiences there. It was not all bad,  I had met some very good Beijing people and took a smattering of tourist type photographs. My three week stay in Shenyang, in May 2008, will always remain my happiest time in China.

Toward the end of our stay in China we returned to the hated Letters and Visits Office with other Petitioners from Shenyang in yet another attempt to push our cases ahead. Our reception was not just cold but at freezing point. The woman with the three pips on her shoulders was openly aggressive and would not give me eye contact and only acknowledged my wife. She had had enough of foreigners. Clearly we were a waste of her time. I was more angry at their collective waste of our time.

Security Guard area near Beijing Letters and Visits Office
To digress, the lack of officials' expertise in dealing with Foreigners was apparent to me from my first "engagement" in 2008.   I had the feeling that most were uncomfortable dealing with us because they really didn't know how to react to us. We were not Chinese nationals that could be yelled at and physically pushed away yet that is what they wanted to do. I actually thought then that, in time when the illegal civil court case was resolved, I could help the Government train officials in dealing with Foreigners. "My God you are naive!", the phrase, so often enunciated by my wife whenever I stray from the path of reality onto the yellow brick road, resounded in my ears at the suggestion of my helping the Government. Sadly, the officials remain ignorant to the ways of the Westerners and continue to make mountains out of mole hills. My wife was so right.

We caught up with Beijing based Petitioner friends and hatched more schemes to push our cases ahead. In September 2010 everything was made much harder for Petitioners there. No photocopying of Petitioner papers was permitted, no legal assistance including advice was permitted and no Petitioner could live in the area unless Registered there. There was an intense crack down to remove Petitioners. Landlords also felt the brunt of the Official  crackdown.

We were making our way down an alley leading out of the Community Living Area when we were approached by two young men. They beckoned us to follow and we did, after some questioning by my wife. They took us to premises nearby and showed us inside. We saw a room in complete disarray. Bedding, food packets, valueless clothing and personal objects were strewn all over the floor. There was hardly place to put your feet. Four men had been taken forcefully from here by Security Guards. Their money was stolen along with any valuables. They were sent to a prison somewhere. The Landlady, around 60 years old, was also robbed of a washing machine, television set, furniture and cash. She was arrested for giving housing to Petitioners and thrown into prison. No receipt were issued by the Security Guards for the items they "liberated ".  I did not photograph the room. I was so stricken by what I saw, the violence that would have created this mess and concern for the safety of the people taken away. Somehow, taking a photograph would have been a meaningless record of a tragic event and that feeling remains with me today. And if I had the photograph and used it, what harm could befall the two men?

Beijing was still very cold with minus Celsius night temperatures and day temperatures hovering in the low pluses. We had picked our way down from a bus stop several hundred metres away to make an early visit to Petitioners in this area. The cement walls of the Beijing Letters and Visits office bore the scars of scorch marks, here and there. Unlikely the fires were lit in the open to warm any poor soul caught outdoors. More likely a gesture of defiance and anger against the System and this building.

Along the way we crossed the dirt road to visit the Communal Toilet, that had no water at the basins or toilet paper, before we entered the Community Living Area where toilet facilities were much more basic. We carried our own supply of toilet paper and hand wipes. Recommended accessories when traveling in China. From the toilet there was a clear view across the road to the gates of the Letters and Visits Office.

I saw the inert body of a woman laying just near the small public entry gates on a large sheet of cardboard with only a light rag covering her. There was no movement. We made our way across to the woman to see if we could help. My wife told me to stay well back. If a foreigner came too close, and authorities saw it, the woman would be in serious trouble for talking to a foreigner. Not that I would understand her Chinese but her intention would be enough. The woman was not dead but she was clearly distressed and incoherent. She babbled nonsense.

There was a Police Station a little further on down the road, on the same side as the toilet we had just left. We went there to report the woman's plight and found no Police there. Only a Security Guard was in the building and he had been difficult to locate. If I was a Petitioner Terrorist (as Petitioner's have been more recently labeled by the Government) what havoc could I have caused?

My wife took the guard to the woman and they talked to her. She remained helpless and incoherent but managed to say that her head hurt. The Security Guard left saying he would get help. It was not good for a Foreigner to see the woman left this way my wife told him. I am certain that had we not happened along the woman would have remained there until someone dragged her away so that they could get through the gate. It was a weekend and exposure would have killed her by Monday morning opening.

Later in the day we were told that the woman had made a strong protest inside the Letters and Visits Office. She was beaten by the Guards, sedated, dragged from the building and dumped at the gate. That had been Friday, the previous day. She had spent the night in that condition outside the gate. Where the cardboard came from that she was laying on is not known.

In September a man was found dead near the gates. No-one was offering any information about the death and we asked no questions to avoid attracting undesirable interest or way.

Much more remains to be written about the following topics


This Communal toilet served the people better
than the Letters and Visits office opposite
This is the Communal Toilet opposite the Beijing Letters and Visits Office. The wash basins had taps but no water. The water pipes were not connected. There was no toilet paper and we carried our own pocket sized packs of toilet paper and hand wipes. Men's toilet on the left and women's toilet on the right. Heavy gauge plastic strips hanging from the top of the doorways helped keep out the rain but served no real purpose.

The toilets were the squat type. I found this type difficult to use due to my two "dicky" knees. I very nearly lost my mobile phone down a toilet here when my belt buckle fell apart and disappeared down inside the stainless steel toilet. My mobile phone was just one loop away from following on after the belt buckle. I was left to walk around with my hands in my pockets holding up my jeans until we found some twine and made a makeshift belt.

The Community Toilet adjacent to the Beijing
Letters and Visits Office was very basic
The Community Toilet just around the corner from the Beijing Letters and Visits Office had no modern amenities. Nocturnal visits were hazardous due to the lack of internal lighting.