A Chinese tourist in Beijing was dragged from his hotel room, savagely beaten, driven home and dumped unconscious at the roadside after being taken for a petitioner, state media reported Saturday.
Under a system dating from imperial times, Chinese people can petition government authorities at various levels over injustices or unresolved disputes such as illegal land grabs or police misconduct.
Millions do so each year, but many complain of official indifference to their concerns and those from the provinces will sometimes travel to Beijing to lodge their grievances with the State Bureau of Letters and Calls.
But local officials try to prevent complaints being lodged against them in the capital to preserve their area's image.
Zhao Zhipei, a tourist from Luoyang in Henan province, was staying in a hotel near the bureau when a group of people barged into his room and dragged him into a van along with three petitioners from his province, Xinhua reported.
On the way back to Luoyang Zhao was brutally beaten, the news agency cited officials as saying, and newspapers published pictures of him, dressed in rags, lying unconscious by the side of the road in his home town.
The incident provoked outrage among China's vast Internet population.
"All those who took part in his abduction should be convicted of kidnapping and wilful assault and wounding," said one poster signed Hailangqi on the sohu.com portal.
"This kind of incident keeps happening in China," said another poster, without giving a name.
Xinhua quoted authorities saying employees of a Beijing security firm hired by the Luoyang Letters and Calls bureau were responsible for the beating.
Six people had been punished, it added -- one removed from his post, another suspended, and four given warnings -- while a senior official had apologised to Zhao.
Petitioners have regularly reported being detained by authorities in so-called "black jails".
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Letters and Calls bureau in January to meet petitioners, a move seen as highlighting the mounting anger felt by many Chinese living in a one-party state that enforces its will by diktat.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.