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Police sorry for slur on Henan 'criminals'
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-26 06:35

"Sorry. Is all that you can't say?"

Two plaintiffs who filed a discrimination case against a Shenzhen police sub-station for branding Henan people as criminals seemed to be echoing folk-pop legend Tracy Chapman's line from the song "Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight?" when they yesterday rejected an apology by a Shenzhen police official in a newspaper interview published yesterday.

Henan residents Li Dongzhao and Ren Chengyu have set a rigid condition for settling the case - filed in Henan Province - out of court: a printed "sorry" in the national media.

Liu Kuanzhi, director of Longgang police sub-station under the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau said, "The banner targeting Henan-native gangs has hurt people from Henan Province and we sincerely apologize to them."

The sub-station in South China's Guangdong Province put up the large banner in early March and offered a reward of 500 yuan (US$60) to anyone who could help nab the Henan gang in the community, China Daily reported last Tuesday.

However, after wide media exposure led to a public outcry, they said they had gone door to door in a Shenzhen district where many people from the Central China province live to apologize. They removed the banner at the end of last month.

However, the efforts are not good enough for Li - one of the plaintiffs - who has spurned the olive branch.

"I haven't received any message from Shenzhen so far and a verbal apology is far from enough to make up for the nationwide negative impact brought about by the banner," Li insisted.

On April 15, Li and Ren filed a lawsuit against Longgang sub-station claiming it had violated the principle of equity enshrined in the Chinese Constitution. They said the police action infringed the rights of Henan people, damaged their reputation and caused mental trauma.

Li hopes that the lawsuit will prod Chinese lawmakers to enact a law on regional discrimination since there is no such explicit legislation now.

Meanwhile, Wu Zhouwei, spokesman for Longgang sub-station, explained that the banner was put up by a patrol officer on his initiative. He said it had no sanction from the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau; and that the patrol officer has been suspended from work.

In the first three months of this year, the community police station caught 17 suspects from five racketeering gangs - all from Henan Province, Wu revealed.

The case is a vivid reflection of discrimination against Henan natives, said Liu Zhongguo from Shenzhen Culture Study Centre.

Dramatically illustrating such behaviour is Wang Lei, a 45-year-old businesswoman who moved to Shenzhen from Henan in 1993 but has told few people of her ancestry.

"I am afraid that once I tell them where I am from, they won't conduct business with me any more," said Wang, adding that she had even told her daughter to keep it a secret.

(China Daily 04/26/2005 page3)

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