This is a story translated from this post by Wan Xiaodao. It’s difficult to confirm whether this is true or not, but at the very least, it’s quite interesting. It ends a bit abruptly, but that’s what the original is like.
A summary of the story:
The Cangzhou, Hebei peasant Chen Tongmei repeatedly traveled to the capital to seek an audience with higher-ups [to report grievances against the local Hebei government]. After returning, the Cangzhou government made arrangements to compensate Chen (they agreed on 100,000 RMB), sort of like keep-your-mouth-shut money, the meaning was ‘don’t go report to Beijing again’.
At this point the story diverges: One country cadre says that Chen suspected 100,000 was too little, and demanded 200,000. Three village cadres say Chen Tongmei didn’t want compensation, only justice. Afterwards, Chen was arrested on suspicion of trying to extort money from the government, and sentenced to five years in prison.
At the same time [Chen was being sentenced] in Cangzhou there were all kinds of cases of rural citizens extorting the government or the courts. These peasants were all sentenced, just like Chen Tongmei.
What’s interesting is that after the Chen Tongmei case the government had tasted something sweet [and didn’t want to let it go]. They started directly consulting with peasants who wanted to report things to Beijing, saying 300,000 RMB to not report [their grievances].
The peasants responded, and wrote guarantees [they wouldn’t report to the Beijing if they received the money]. Then, out of the blue, PSB officers would appear and take the peasants away, saying they [were trying to] extort the government. This story seems familiar, obviously it wasn’t the Cangzhou government’s original idea, they’re plagiarizing the famous Shanghai “fishing method of law enforcement”.
Another story is that when they were being sentenced the peasants had no lawyers to speak in their defense. Their relatives [tried to] help them find lawyers but had their IDs seized or were taken to PSB substations and weren’t allowed to seek lawyers. At the same time, [the government] was also afraid they would continue trying to report to Beijing.