On March 17, 2009, Shandong petitioner Zhang Jinfeng (å¼ é‘å¤) was sentenced to one year and nine months of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL). Zhang was detained on March 5, 2009, while taking photos at a peaceful rally of several hundred petitioners in Quancheng Square, Jinan, Shandong Province. Several others were also detained but released shortly afterwards. Zhang was the only person sentenced to RTL.
“The sentencing of Zhang Jinfeng for engaging in activities protected by Chinese law is yet another example of the use of RTL as an instrument of political control,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution states that citizens ‘enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.’”
According to information obtained by Human Rights in China (HRIC), at 9:00 a.m. on March 5, 2009, several hundred petitioners - most of them victims of forced relocations - gathered in Quancheng Square to show their support for the Chinese League of Victims (ä¸å½å¤æ°‘å¤§åç). Participants chanted slogans and displayed a single placard while policemen with more than a dozen police vehicles guarded the vicinity.
Zhang, a member of the league who had gathered lists of names of petitioners for the organization, was detained at around 10:00 a.m. Later that day, and again on March 10, police searched Zhang’s home that she shares with her partner, Zhang Zhongxiao (å¼ å¿ å), confiscating their computer, cell phone, camera, and documents. On March 17, officers from the Wuyingshan police station in Jinan's Tianqiao District delivered Zhang Jinfeng's RTL Decision to Zhang Zhongxiao.
Zhang Zhongxiao has been twice denied a visit to Zhang Jinfeng in the Shandong Women’s RTL Center where she is held, because, officials told him, he and Zhang Jinfeng were not legally married, despite the fact that they have lived together for over ten years.
Zhang Jinfeng is a prominent and outspoken member of the petitioning community in Shandong. According to sources, she frequently gave legal advice to petitioners on how to protect their rights. She also compiled information on petitioners’ cases and reported them to authorities. Before this year's two sessions of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Zhang also sent documentation of various petitioners’ cases to Shandong's representatives to the NPC.
The Chinese League of Victims is a group of some 80,000 mainland petitioners registered in Hong Kong in December 2008. It is headed by petitioner and housing activist Shen Ting (æ²å©•), a Shanghai native living in Hong Kong who is not permitted to return to mainland China.