Scholarship and education

The political background check of a petitioner's daughter

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Politically qualified

If you've got a grievance against local officials, here's another reason not to take your case to the national petition system: you may end up derailing your child's dreams of studying law enforcement in college.

A good score on China's college entrance exam — the gaokao (高考) — is just one requirement for university admission. Applicants also have to submit a physical examination, and for certain fields, they have to take an oral interview.

Then there's the "political inspection" (政审), a background check that certifies, among other things, that applicants possess a clean criminal record, are not involved in any evil cults, do not have non-ethnic tattoos or other markings of gang membership, and do not have close relatives involved in major criminal or cult activities.

Applicants to military and law enforcement schools are required to have their current school, local party committee, and local police station sign off on the inspection form before they can continue with the application process.

The petition system, another hot-button topic, was connected to gaokao political background checks in news reports this month about Hu Jiajia, a high school student in Hebei Province, whose background check was denied by the local PSB because her father had once been detained for three days for petitioning to have the village repay a loan.

After the story ran in the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, local authorities backtracked and cleared Hu's background check. The Beijing News caught up with Hu and her family for an interview last week:

The Political Frustrations of a Petitioner's Daughter

"I don't blame my dad"
by Wu Wei / TBN

On the evening of June 22, at an eatery in Beijing's Haidian District separated from the street by a railing, Feng Wucheng and two other members of his family were busy with their barbecue stand.

Aside from the occasional return trip to their hometown of Dongliang, in Longyao County, Hebei, for the harvest, Feng Wucheng's main duty is to make money in Beijing with his wife, Zhang Jingmin, so that they will be able to pay tuition for their daughter, Feng Jiajia.

Because her father's status as a petitioner, Feng Jiajia encountered problems during the gaokao-related political examination, but when things eventually cleared up, she said that regardless of what the future holds, "I won't leave myself the chance for regret."

Daughter: I didn't blame my father's petitioning

After this year's gaokao, Feng Jiajia applied to the Central Institute for Correctional Police (中央司法警官学院). The school required a health exam, an oral interview, and a background check for admission. Feng took her form to get stamped by the local police station, which informed her that because her father had been detained for three days for petitioning, it could not apply the stamp.

The Beijing News: What happened the first time you went to the police station to have them issue a background check document?
Feng Jiajia: I went on June 15. The day before, I had gotten my school to issue a certificate.

The neighborhood officer checked the computer and said, I can't do it, your dad's been in jail. He said he'd talk to the captain. I was outside, but I could hear someone inside say in a loud voice, don't do it. Even if you do it, she won't pass.

I was furious, and I stormed out with the form.

TBN: What were you thinking at the time?
FJ: I wanted to go home, to pretend that nothing had happened, to suppress it, and not let them (parents) be burdened. I couldn't let my father feel bad after learning that his petitioning had affected me. So I didn't want to go through with it.

That day, I got a call from my aunt asking me to go to my grandmother's. I was wondering whether I should mention it. Later, I couldn't hold it in and told her. I never thought my grandma would call my mom.

TBN: Was it uncomfortable?
FJ: For a few days after it happened, I felt really awful, and just sat around the house all day. But apart from the one time I cried with my grandma, I didn't cry again. Whenever anyone brought it up I got annoyed and didn't even listen.

TBN: When did you learn about your parents' petition?
FJ: I've forgotten the exact time. I learned about it probably not long after they came back, when I came home for a vacation. But when I was writing up the application, I didn't think about that element, so I didn't include it. I never imagined that it would have an effect (on the background check).

TBN: Do you blame your dad?
FJ: I don't blame my dad for petitioning. And I don't think he's done anything wrong. He's spoken to me about this (the background check). He's always bringing it up. I told him, don't talk about it anymore. I'll go to another school, OK? Applying to that school (the CICP) won't affect the others.

I've talked mostly with my mom. Dad is pretty serious.

I've thought it over. If this school doesn't work out, then my first choice is business management, because of the influence of our family business when I was younger. There's also teaching, and interior design.

Father: I petitioned because the village hadn't repaid a debt

His daughter's background check got held up because of one petition experience. The captain of the Dongliang Township police station in Longyao County told the media that according to the rules, five crime-free years after the completion of a sentence are enough to pass a background check. Feng Wucheng was once detained for petitioning, so his daughter could not pass a background check.

TBN: What was your petition about?
Feng Wucheng: The village borrowed money from me and didn't give it back. In 1997, the village needed to install street lights. The wiring needed to be overhauled, and they were short two transformers. The boss said, install them first and then allocate the funds, and the village secretary Feng Qifang told me that they'd pay me back based on the bank's highest loan interest rate.

I was running a feed processing plant at the time and was doing fairly well financially. So I gave them 30,000. I've still got the receipt issued by the village committee. At the end of the year, they gave me 15,000.

The next year was the end of the committee term, and then they delayed and delayed, and it became harder to scrape money together. My dept became an "old problem."

TBN: When did you start petitioning?
FW: I started petitioning the county in 1999. They felt it was a simple matter: debts need to be repaid. But the village wouldn't repay it. After another half-year delay, I began to go to the city, which had the same attitude. But the village kept putting it off.

Debts need to be repaid. That's a law of nature. But now a creditor has become a petitioner. Isn't that ridiculous?

In 2005, the feed processing plant closed due to poor business. In 2006, when the Xingtai Municipal Petition Office sent me back to Longyao, the police locked me up (three days for "disturbing social order"). They didn't beat me, they just told me that the village hoped that the money could be repaid in installments, not in one lump-sum. If I agreed, they'd let me out.

When I got out, a few village officials took me to dinner as an apology.

TBN: Has the debt been repaid yet?
Zhang Jingmin: They've paid back 13,000, but that's just interest. The 15,000 principal hasn't been repaid.

TBN: Did you tell your daughter about your petitioning?
FW: I never told her. Room and board for her was at school, and I didn't want her to worry about it. Usually when we've got knotty things in mind, she'll draw them out of us, but she never took the initiative to speak about this one.

Even after the background check was denied, she didn't blame me. She only told me not to play nice to them. She wasn't going, and she didn't want us to beg anyone.

TBN: What kind of influence did petitioning have on your family?
ZJ: We're uneducated farmers. When you're ignorant of the law, you suffer for it. So we need our daughter to go to college so that she can understand the law and learn how to protect herself. Right now, our family is in Beijing making money by selling barbecue. No matter how much hard work it takes, we're sending her to college.

Daughter: My application to a law enforcement school had nothing to do with my father's case

After the test, when his daughter's background check failed, a father took his case to the media. This action brought a change in circumstances.

TBN: Why did you apply to the CICP? Did it have anything to do with your family history?
FJ: When I was in elementary school I really wanted to be a police officer. They looked really cool, and in that uniform you'd have a real feeling of responsibility.

I chose the school myself. I applied to the Judicial Police major so when I got out I could work in a court or a prison. But what I really want to be is a judge.

FW: Jiajia's uncle works at the Qiuxian procuratorate (in the city of Xingtai). He went to college, and he told her what colleges were good and what advantages they had. We're farmers, with no money or connections, and we worry that after she graduates she won't be able to find a place to work. Lots of college graduates these days just stay at home without a job. This school's got to be a little better, right?

She heard that if she couldn't get in to this one college, then she could go to another one. This one wouldn't affect that one. So she ended up applying.

TBN: Do you have any classmates who applied to the same school?
FJ: Yes. I called up some of the other people at school who applied to law enforcement schools. One said that his family wouldn't let him go, and three others felt there wasn't much point: you'd have a tough time finding a job after graduation, so even though they applied they didn't go.

I asked them, did you pass the background check? They asked me, what background check? I thought it was a real shame that they didn't go. If only I had one of their background forms.

TBN: Did your parents' experience subconsciously influence your desire to become a protector of social order?
FJ: I don't think so. It's more of a "uniform complex," which I've had since I was young. If I'm actually able to do that sort of work, I will feel an immense amount of responsibility. I think I can say that I'm the sort of person who can undertake that responsibility. I won't let everyone down.

TBN: Did you look to teachers for help after your daughter's background check failed?
ZJ: She didn't tell her school teachers. She was afraid of letting people know about her father's "priors." She's got a strong sense of dignity.

TBN: What was your reaction?
ZJ: I was worried at the time. If handled poorly, it could affect her entire life, and for the rest of my life I'd feel that I'd let her down, particularly because it was because of her parents' petitioning. I never imagined that everything would be smoothed out after the media reported it.

TBN: Did you take the initiative to talk to the media?
ZW: Yes. I found the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily tip hotline and called up a reporter in Xingtai, and then they reported it.

Father: I don't blame the police station. So long as the background check is approved, it's all fine

After the media report on June 19, Feng Jiajia received a supplemental gaokao background check certificate from the township police station. Zhang Jingtao, political director of the Longyao County PSB, said that the background check guidelines jointly issued by the Hebei Provincial Recruitment Office and the Provincial Public Security Department did not make it clear whether children whose immediate family members had been detained for petitioning could not pass a background check for a law-enforcement school.

TBN: How did you find out that your background check had been approved?
FJ: At around six or seven on the evening of June 18, I was standing outside the door to our home when the village secretary came over and said, go with your dad to the police station tomorrow, I've talked it over with Hongbiao (Cui Hongbiao, Dongliang Village station captain) and the background check passed.

At the time it was only me and a classmate who were at home. I asked her, should I go or not? I was a little hesitant, but not really ticked off. My classmate said, since the inspection's been granted, then go if you want to - whether or not you get admitted, at least you won't regret that you didn't try.

TBN: Did you speak with your dad that evening?
FJ: No. I only told him the next morning. I got the form, and I had to go on my own for the physical. I felt that I really had grown up. I could do those things all by myself, and I didn't want to add to their worries.

TBN: How do you feel now that this whole background check business is over?
ZJ: It's like a load off my mind. Jiajia is happy. Otherwise, I'd have chest pains from the stress.

ZW: I don't blame the police station. Now that it's done, the stress is gone.


A similar story that also took place in Hebei Province ran in the Beijing Times yesterday (although it was broken by the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily the day before).

A young woman, also named Jiajia, applied to a military academy but had her background check denied by her local PSB because her parents had spent a few weeks in jail several years ago. Once again, when the media brought the story to public attention, the officials backtracked and apologized.

In this case, however, it was too late.

Student's background check denied because of parents' prior arrest

Beijing Times, from China Youth Daily and Zhaoyan Metropolis Daily reports

Upon her school's recommendation, Hu Jiajia, a student at Yongqing's #1 High School in Langfang, Hebei Province, prepared to apply to a military academy. But her background check got held up at the local police station, and she failed to qualify for an interview. Hu said that the station refused to stamp her form because her parents, Hu Zhenying and Duan Shuzhi, had been in jail in April 2007, which disqualified her from the requirements for a background check. But although the police station initially blamed her parents' situation, it later changed its explanation to say that the police station could not approve the check because it had not received any documents concerning the background inspection process for military academies.

Hu Jiajia lives in the village of Dawangzhuan, in Chouzhuang Township, which is located in Langfang's Anci District, adjoining Yongqign County. She scored a 516 overall on this year's gaokao, fourteen points above the second-level cut-off. Her aspiration is to go to a military academy: "My parents are both farmers, and if I go to a military school, it's free and I'll get an additional subsidy, and there's security in national defense work."

As planned, when she finished the gaokao, Hu Jiajia went to the local People's Armed Forces Department in Yongqing County to obtain a "Political inspection form for civilian high school graduates applying to military academies and defense students applying to civilian colleges." The deadline for submission was June 18.

On June 15, Hu Jiajia and her mother Duan Shuzhi went to the Chouzhuang police station to meet Deng Zhiming, the police officer in charge of their neighborhood, and station captain Gan. The form required stamps from the village committee, the school, and the police station. The committee and school had already stamped it, but the police station refused to stamp the background check form. The reason they gave was that in 2007, Hu Jiajia's parents had gotten into a scuffle with their neighbors over a land issue and were jailed for fifteen days. Zheng Zhiming had been responsible for handling the case, and it was Zheng who refused to stamp the form.

Duan said that she explained to Zheng, "The mistakes of adults have nothing to do with their kids. People are responsible for their own actions. Why should this be tied onto the kid?" Zheng said, "Even if your kid has astronomical talent, she's not going. So long as I'm alive, you're not signing this."

Mother and daughter sought out captain Gan Shuangle, who said that he needed to make a few phone calls. Hu Jiajia said that after making a number of calls, Gan still wouldn't sign.

Duan consulted the Anci District PSB on June 16 but obtained no results.

Back at home, Hu Jiajia received a call from the Yongqing County People's Armed Forces Department informing her that the deadline for background checks had passed, all forms had been turned in to their superiors, and the physical exam had been pushed ahead. Her dreams of going to military school had come to an end.

Hu Jiajia was mystified by the background check process: "Even murderers don't have any connection to their children. This was just jail. How does that involve a kid?"

On June 24, captain Gan of the Chouzhuang police station denied that Zheng Zhiming had said anything like, "So long as I'm alive, you're not signing this," and said, "It's absolutely impossible. The decision is out of our hands." But when Yanzhao Metropolis Daily journalist Cheng Jianhui visited the station June 23, a station staffer said that it was precisely because Hu's parents had been in jail that they had refused to stamp the form: they needed to "seek truth from facts, and be responsible to the army."

Captain Gan said that the form was not signed because he had not seen the military academy's background standards, and was only familiar with the standards for the police academy. According to his logic, the military academy's standards ought to be higher than the police academy's.

Background checks are conducted according to the Political Qualification Guidelines for the Acceptance of Civilian High School Graduates by Military Academies and the Acceptance of Civilian College Graduates by the Military, jointly issued by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Security, and the General Political Department. The Guidelines list eleven circumstances under which admission may be denied. The first nine involve illegal activity including leaking secrets, spying, harming national security, hooliganism, theft, hijacking, fraud, gambling, and smuggling. The tenth class is people whose immediate family members, close extended family members, or others in a direct guardian relationship have been given a criminal sentence or dealt party discipline, and who are unable to correctly deal with the situation. Hu Jiajia said that her parents were jailed for fifteen days over an altercation with their neighbors in 2007, when she was away at school, and she was able to "correctly deal with" the situation.

Consulting the Political Provisions for Conscription, this reporter found that "parents jailed by public security" does not fall under "political conditions unfitting for conscription."

On the morning of June 25, members of the Anci branch of the Langfang Municipal PSB and the Anxi District People's Armed Forces Department visited Hu Zhenying and his wife. the PSB agreed to provide the family with financial compensation, the amount of which has yet to be determined. Hu Zhenying said, "We didn't do it for the money. My child has to write in her intended college today. Two classmates who applied to military academies got in, but her future has been delayed. It's not a question of money."

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There are currently 2 Comments for The political background check of a petitioner's daughter.

Comments on The political background check of a petitioner's daughter

With so many "Zhuangyuans", you can feel the strong presence of feudalism in China. It is no surprise you are denied the opportunity of further education because you have problem in your origin.

Juxtaposition:

"Jiajia's uncle works at the Qiuxian procuratorate (in the city of Xingtai). He went to college, and he told her what colleges were good and what advantages they had. "

The next line:

"We're farmers, with no money or connections..."

I think plenty of people (in any country) without college-educated government-official uncles advising them would disagree on this man's definition of "connections."

Granted, it's great that this guy didn't let himself get screwed, either on the debt or on his daughter's college admission, but save us the "we're just poor farmers!" routine. Granted, that's why he succeeded--this guy is pretty savvy. But could no one call him out on it?

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