BEIJING (AP) — Police detained and tied up six Chinese farmers involved in land disputes with the government to prevent them from trying to see U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during his visit last month, one of the farmers said Thursday.
The farmers, all women from southwest China's Sichuan province, filed a joint complaint with provincial prosecutors this week against police in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, said Gan Xingyan, 46, one of the plaintiffs.
Police frequently detain dozens of activists and petitioners in Beijing and elsewhere in China ahead of major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, President Barack Obama's first state visit to the country in 2009 and National Day celebrations on Oct. 1.
Activists and petitioners often try to piggyback on high-profile visits to draw attention to their complaints and embarrass the government. Some hang banners, while others try to invade government offices or distribute flyers at Tiananmen Square. Most attempts are unsuccessful.
In Chengdu, police detained the farmers for days, put handcuffs and leg irons on them, tied them to benches and starved some of them in order to block them from seeing Biden when he made a stop in the city on Aug. 20, Gan said.
"They threatened us and interrogated us without stop and kept us awake," she said in a phone interview. "They detained us without any proper documents and tortured us with despicable means. We want justice, but we're not sure whether we will get it in the end."
A phone call to the media office of the Chengdu Public Security Bureau rang unanswered Thursday. A woman who answered a call at the media office of the Shuangliu county Public Security Bureau hung up the phone. The farmers are from Shuangliu.
Four of the women were rounded up by plainclothes police in the early hours of Aug. 20 while they were staying at a friend's place next to Sichuan University — where Biden was to address students hours later — while another two were picked up at the north gate of the university later that day, the complaint said. A seventh farmer on the complaint was taken away Aug. 30, more than a week after Biden left China, it said.
The complaint was published on 64Tianwang.com, a Chinese human rights website run by veteran activist Huang Qi. It is accompanied by photos of one of the women, He Xiujun, lying on a hospital bed with large bruises on her legs from being tied to a bench for days until she finally fainted. Gan said the woman was still in the hospital.
All of the women are petitioners who have tried for years to bring attention to their grievances over unfair compensation for farmland seized by the local government in Shuangliu, Gan said.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing declined to comment.
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