BEIJING (Reuters) - Plainclothes police severely beat the wife of a provincial official, mistaking her for one of many Chinese who petition government offices in the hope of redressing wrongs, the China Daily reported on Wednesday.
The case of mistaken identity has become a hot topic among Chinese Internet users, highlighting the abuse that China’s armies of petitioners routinely suffer at the hands of police and hired thugs who wish to silence them.
Six public security officers set on Chen Yulian, the wife of a provincial law enforcement officer, last month when she tried to enter her husband’s office building, which houses the Hubei provincial party headquarters, the China Daily said.
“This incident is a total misunderstanding,” the Communist Party chief of the district bureau explained, according the newspaper. “Our police officers never realized that they beat the wife of a senior leader.”
China’s leaders are obsessed with maintaining social stability and “building a harmonious society” has been their chief concern in the recent years.
Thousands of petitioners take their grievances to Beijing every day. Many of their complaints stem from land seizures, while others seek redress for lay-offs dating from massive bankruptcies in China’s state sector in the 1990s.
The men who beat Chen were later identified as public security officers from Wuhan, the provincial capital, who had been assigned to guard the office building and “subdue” petitioners.
“A strong wave of fists rained down on her for more than 16 minutes,” the report said.
Chen was knocked to the ground despite her attempt to explain that her husband worked in the office building. She was then transported to a police station and yelled at when she requested medical attention, according to the paper’s account.
The attack left her with a concussion, and damaged brain and nerve tissues. Chen was released and sent to hospital after she reached her husband by phone, and ranking police officers apologized profusely.
“Does this mean the police are not supposed to beat leaders’ wives, but the ordinary people can be battered?” the China Daily quoted an anonymous visitor to Chen’s ward as saying.
Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Lucy Hornby and Ken Wills