The daunting journey in China’s salvation station
The Chang Sha Salvation Station on 23:50 Jan 7th
In December 2012, a vagrant froze to death under a bridge in Chang Sha Yuhua District. Another happened on Jan 3rd, 2013 in Chang Sha Kaifu District. Two vagrants passed away in a few days in the same city. But why didn’t they go to salvation station to seek warm and shelter?
The journalist secretly investigated the salvation station in Chang Sha, presenting the true life of vagrant.
“Any form of detention of people who seek for help is forbidden. Beating, scolding and physically punishing, abusing people who seek help are also forbidden.”
– From the “rescue management measures for vagrants and beggars in cities without support” after the 2003 Sun Zhigang incident, which a vagrant was beaten to death in salvation station in Guangzhou.
24 years on the road
The reason why vagrants won’t go to salvation station
Luan Weidong started his work at night, 22:00 Jan 6th. He wore a frock, a cotton-padded pants and cotton shoes and searched in a trash bin with a big plastic bag hanging on one hand.
The life of a garbage collector for three years, prior to Chang Sha, he has been a vagrant for 21 years around the whole country. He has been to a small coal mine in Xinjiang Province, and illegal brick factory in Henan Province. In 2009, he came to Chang Sha, because “it’s warmer here”.
In the past three years, volunteers, the police, even the residences nearby have encouraged him to go to the salvation station. But he refused with smile every time. “The salvation station always sends people back to where they come from in the end, If I can survive in my hometown, why did I come out in the first place?” said Luan Weidong. He has been to the salvation station in other cities before, but felt like being a “prisoner” and left the place forever.
The journalist has investigated 20 vagrants, and the results are unanimous. Although they dress poorly and suffer from hunger, nobody wants to go to the salvation station. They would rather collector garbage under the bridge, the tunnel, or beside the construction plant and the railway station.
What is the salvation station like actually? The journalist of the newspaper went as a vagrant to conduct a secret investigation.
Cannot get through the telephone line
Calling ten times without answering
The journalist was standing with Luan Weidong on the crossroad of Jiefang West Road at 21:00, Jan 7th. Luan gave the journalist a shabby cotton-padded coat. “I almost cannot recognize you” said Luan.
The pedestrians walked by and called the salvation station in Tianxin District.
21:38, the first call was not answered. The following four calls were all busy on the line. The sixth call was able to get through, but nobody answered. The following four calls again responded with busy tones.
21:44, the residences called the police for help.
21:49, the local police station called back for inquiry.
21:55, two policemen arrived and took the journalist to the salvation station in Yaoling directly.
Beaten by three people
Hands and legs tied, head against by knees
22:30, the staffs in the salvation station agreed to rescue the journalist after confirming he was not drunk. About 5 minutes later, the police went away and the atmosphere suddenly changed.
“What’s your name? Where do you live?” The journalist found the staff was asking him angrily.
Because the journalist was disguised as a deaf vagrant, he did not answer the question. After several times, the staff raised his voice.
And one staff suddenly ran to him and tied his hands from behind. Then two pressed his legs firmly.
Afraid of beaten escalation, the journalist asked for help: “the staffs in salvation station can’t beat people!” The staff said: “I will not beat you” and then tripped him on the ground heavily on purpose.
Then, two others pressed his leg firmly, making him still and hard to breath.
Giving up rescue
“Now you want to go? It’s too late!”
“I give up the rescue! I want to go out, I want to go out!” The journalist had to ask for mercy since he was almost knocked out unconscious.
“Now you want to go? It’s too late!” the staff used his knee against the journalist’s head.
“According to the law, people who ask for help can voluntarily accept or give up the rescue from salvation station. The station cannot detain any vagrant from his freedom.” The journalist gave his reasons to leave but was denied.
He had to tell his father’s telephone number to the staff in the end. After connecting with his father, the staffs finally untied him.
They then took out a form, saying the journalist had to sign in as “voluntarily give up the rescue” before he can leave.
About 23:00, the journalist left the salvation station.
An old vagrant tied in the station asking for help
23:30, another journalist went to the station to pick up the injured one. He found that an old vagrant was lying on a stretcher. His hands were tied by white hemp rope from behind. The rope was very tight. His legs were tied by tapes. He tried to sit up but cannot move. He had to turn to the journalist for help with upturned body. “Untie me, untie me!” said he.
Passing by the old man, the journalist lowered his body and asked the reason why he was tied. The old man just begged: “Can you untie me first? Let go my leg and let me sit up.”
Wearing a rugged coat, the vagrant was very old with a grey hair. The blood on his mouth has scabbed. When asked whether he was beaten, he nodded his head and shed tears.
“But I’m a journalist, not a staff here. I don’t have the power to untie you.” Hearing the words, the old man’s eyes were fainted away, never paid attention to the journalist anymore.
About one hour later, the old vagrant was gone.