BEIJING (AP) - A dozen people protesting the demolition of their homes in central China drank pesticide in Beijing in a desperate bid for attention that underscores the failures of a decades-old petitioning system.
The 12 survived the protest on Tuesday near a historic watchtower in the heart of China's capital after police sent them to a hospital where they were being treated on Wednesday for poisoning, said Wang Yuping, one of the residents.
Chinese petitioners sometimes are driven to extreme measures as their frustration boils over after years of unresolved grievances and routine beatings by local authorities.
Wang, 40, and the others had traveled to Beijing from a district in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei province, to draw attention to their complaints and described the protest as a group suicide attempt.
"We have been petitioning for so many years, but either we have been dragged back home or locked in secret jails and beaten, and no one has been willing to help us," Wang said by telephone.
"We felt like there was no hope left."
Each petitioner drank about 50 milliliters of pesticide each, Wang said, then lay down on the ground until police arrived, bundled them into vehicles and drove them to a hospital.
Wang said the petitioners have been unsuccessfully seeking redress since 2010 for the razing of their homes by local authorities who provided little or no compensation.
Local government and police offices in Wuhan could not be reached by phone.
Every year in China, millions of complaints are filed about what petitioners see as injustice or incompetence by local officials in issues such as land expropriation, forced home demolitions and labor disputes, or the failure of local authorities to prosecute crimes.
The system is criticised as ineffective and being prone to abuse.