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Protest-zone test case blocked in Beijing

Josephine Ma in Beijing
August 02,2008

A representative of more than 100 property owners from Suzhou was detained and sent home on Friday when she tried to submit an application to protest in a designated zone in Beijing during the Olympics.

Ge Yifei , a retired doctor representing 140 owners from The Lakeview luxury development in Suzhou Industrial Park, in Jiangsu province , arrived in the capital in the morning. She went straight to the Municipal Public Security Bureau to file the application.

While she was explaining to an officer why she wanted to protest several men claiming to be officials from the Suzhou city government's petition office rushed in and blocked her from leaving, according to Yan Lin , a Lakeview property owner who had accompanied Dr Ge.

Mr Yan said he was let go only after he showed his identity card to prove he was a Beijing resident, but Dr Ge was detained.

"The policeman on duty was telling her she should apply to the police station near the protest zone. But he added that it was useless to apply anyway," Mr Yan said.

Dr Ge was later allowed to leave the police station, but the Suzhou officials followed her, telling her they would see her out of Beijing. She boarded a Suzhou-bound train last night.

Many of the owners Dr Ge represents are powerful businessmen, and they have been at loggerheads with the authorities, which have sided with developer Gasin (Suzhou) Property Development in a land dispute.

The developer started building in a recreational area that originally belonged to Lakeview.

Lakeview property committee chairman Zhu Yongxi said they had decided to file a protest after learning that officials had authorised protest zones in three Beijing parks. He said he was deeply disappointed by yesterday's outcome.

"How could the Suzhou officials suddenly show up? They had to have been informed," Mr Zhu said. "We cannot voice our discontent through legal means. It is fake democracy."

He Bing , a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law and the lawyer representing the owners, said the handling of the application was unlawful.

"If they don't approve the application, they should [accept it and then] turn it down. These homeowners were not even given a chance to submit their protest application," he said.

The residents are not the first to report such difficulties. Du Liangcai - nephew of Yok Mu-ming, chairman of the New Party in Taiwan - said he had filed a complaint on behalf of a dozen Taiwanese property owners to the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office.

"We are testing to see if the pledge [about the protest zone] is fake or genuine by filing the application; it appears that it is a fake," he said.

Members of the Chinese Civilian Association for Safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands, a group of anti-Japanese activists, asked Beijing police last week if they could apply to protest in Ritan Park, but were told no, according to one of the activists. One member was asked to return to his home province, Hunan .

Copyright ©2008 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.