Former inmate reveals existence of 'black jail'

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by SHASH2K2, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    BEIJING - "Black jails" run by security companies to intercept or confine "deviant petitioners" have not yet been swept out of the capital, according to Beijing police who said they recently dismantled one such jail in Changping district.

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    A courtyard house in Lingshang village, Beiqijia township of Changping, which illegally kept dozens of deviant petitioners, has been closed down. [Photo / China Daily]

    Wang Wenjie, a publicity official with the municipal public security bureau, told China Daily on Tuesday that police in Changping caught several suspects who were running the illegal detention house after a released petitioner gave them information.
    Police also rescued several petitioners detained there, Wang said.
    The police officer, however, did not reveal how many suspects were detained or if the black jail, which was located somewhere in Lingshang village, Beiqijia township of Changping, had been closed down.
    "All I can say is that the black jail is one individual case," Wang said, indicating there is no other illegal detention house in the city.
    The issue of black jails shocked the nation last year when media reported that a local government had paid security companies to intercept and lock up - normally by force - "deviant petitioners".
    Under the law, people from all over the country with grievances against governments can come to the capital to present their case to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls.
    In September, Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau detained Zhang Jun, chairman of Anyuanding Security Service Company, and Zhang Jie, general manager of the company, for "illegally detaining people and illegal business operations".
    The company started business in 2004. In 2008 it began to help liaison officers from local governments in Beijing who wanted to stop people from petitioning, according to the police investigation.
    China's latest version of Regulations on Letters and Visits does not define "deviant petitioners", but states if the letter-writer or visitor violates the laws or administrative regulations on processions and demonstrations, the public security body shall take necessary measures and impose an administrative penalty.
    The Beijing News reported on Tuesday that information from a petitioner surnamed Zhou, who was released from the "black jail" in early July, led to the police operation.
    Zhou, from Yancheng city, in East China's Jiangsu province, said as soon as she walked out of a government office in Beijing on July 4, several men blocked her way and dragged her into a minivan.
    The men confiscated Zhou's mobile phone and drove her for an hour to a courtyard of three houses measuring about 60 square meters, the report said.
    "There was no bed in my room. Elderly people and babies were sitting or lying on the ground," Zhou was quoted as saying. "It was hot, humid and airless."
    She added that about 50 people from different places were detained in the courtyard with her. The houses were heavily guarded and it was "difficult to run away".
    Zhou was released four days later for good behavior, but she said some people had been held there for months.
    In last year's Anyuanding case, police took most "deviant petitioners" in Beijing to Majialou reception and rescue center, from where the petitioners were taken away by hired security personnel to black jails or sent home.
    An owner of a grocery store near the Majialou center, surnamed Li, told China Daily she saw many petitioners being treated roughly.
    "I once saw a petitioner pushed down from a truck. He almost had his leg run over," Li said.
    Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the black jail case in Changping will not be the last one in Beijing.
    "There is a chain of interests behind the control of petitioners," Yu said.
    "The security company wants to make money from it, and the local government needs help from outside to maintain stability and fulfill their obligations."
    Yu said only when the "system of maintaining social stability changes can the issue of black jails be eliminated completely".
     
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  3. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    China PM’s meet with petitioners a carefully orchestrated political show, Human Rights Watch says


    BEIJING — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has met citizens in Beijing petitioning for redress over unpaid wages, home demolitions and land grabs, state media said Wednesday — the first such meeting in six decades.

    Wen’s visit to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls — where petitioners go to file complaints with authorities — highlighted the mounting anger felt by many Chinese living in a one-party state that enforces its will by diktat.

    It was the first such trip by a premier since communist China was founded in 1949, the reports said, and it received widespread coverage in print and broadcast media.

    But amid rising levels of public protest across China, Wen’s conversations with unhappy citizens were slammed by Human Rights Watch as a political show.
    Under a system dating from imperial times, Chinese people can petition government authorities in Beijing or provincial capitals over injustices or unresolved disputes such as illegal land grabs or police misconduct.

    However, many of the millions of petitioners each year complain of official indifference to their concerns and occasionally lash out in frustration, while others report being detained by authorities in so-called “black jails”.

    The premier — sometimes called “Grandpa Wen” for his down-to-earth style — said during Monday’s visit that as long as petitioners’ complaints were “reasonable”, they would be resolved.

    “We should use the power in our hands to serve the interests of the people, helping them to tackle difficulties in a responsible way,” Wen said, shaking hands with those filling in forms and queuing to submit their papers.

    “Land is the lifeline of farmers,” Wen said.

    The government is gearing up for its annual session of parliament, which will begin in early March, and Wen’s visit to the petition office signals a government conscious of public anger.

    Land disputes have become China’s most volatile social problem as officials and developers seek to cash in on the nation’s property boom, sometimes forcing people out of their homes without proper compensation.

    One family are locked in a standoff with police at their Beijing clothing shop, threatening to set themselves on fire after they were told the shop would be demolished to make way for a new subway line.

    Some have used the Internet to rally support for their causes as the web, used by more than 450 million people in China, offers an outlet to expose abuses in a country where traditional media are heavily censored.

    President Hu Jintao came under pressure last week during a state visit to the United States to do better on human rights, with President Barack Obama saying the “universal rights of every human being” had to be upheld.

    Hu admitted “a lot” needed to be done in China in terms of human rights but emphasised that “different national circumstances” had to be considered.

    Human Rights Watch criticised Wen’s visit as a carefully orchestrated move that “will be widely propagated to Chinese citizens through state media with the explicit message that the Chinese Communist Party leadership cares”.

    “The fact is that the system is broken and that petitioners are far too often subject to abuses even greater than those which prompted them to petition in the first place,” the New York-based group said in a statement.

    HRW said the fact that millions of people file petitions each year was “proof positive of the lack of true rule of law in China”.
     
  4. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Since year 2003, thousands of Chinese petitioners have been held for days, and months in what is commonly known as black jails. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) These can be found anywhere from a state owned hotel, to a nursing home, to any common building you may find. Their purpose: to detain petitioners who come to Beijing or other provincial capitals seeking rectification for their complaints that were not resolved at lower levels of government. These secret and unlawful detention camps were created and used by local and provincial officials to detain innocent people and to put them through abuse in all forms. In black jails, petitioners are physically and psychologically abused, deprived of food, water, sleep, and medical care, in the aim of teaching them a lesson. These people, ranging from minors petitioning in the place of their parents, to the elderly population, are enclosed in sometimes-small and unsanitary spaces for several months and subjected to theft, blackmail and no communication with family or courts. There is constant surveillance and arbitrary beatings occurring for no reason at all, and upon an injury are not even allowed to se a doctor. What have these people done to deserve such nauseating treatment? (Hartley)

    The underground system of black jails are run by officials all over China, right under the nose of the Chinese government, or so it seems. In past UN human rights council of China’s human rights record in June 2009, they completely denied the existence of black jails. The principal of black jails contradict the Chinese governments previous statements. They continually announce the fact that China respects all the rights and freedoms of its people. In 2004, they said at a UN conference, “The state respects and preserves human rights.” In 2008, they launched a “People First” policy promoting human rights. In 2009, they announced the “National Human Rights Action Plan” stating “The Chinese government unswervingly pushes forward the cause of human rights in China.” (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) The situation is just a little bit fishy.

    Chinese and foreign journalists who have visited black jails, as well as academic researchers try to prove the facility’s existence. In essence, the detainees are petitioners coming from rural areas to Beijing or other capitals to find help from the government. They come for compensation for abuses to human rights or other laws such as: illegal land being stolen by higher officials, police torture, and other forms of corruption. These citizens are exercising their legal right to complain about these wrongdoings, however, the plot thickens. The government officials employ plainclothes thugs, commonly known as “retrievers” to intercept and abduct them. The black jails are the symbol of failure of China’s petitioning system. This system, known in the past as “letters-and-visits practice” began during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). This system mean that citizens could bring appeals for justice to central governments in Beijing or other official cities and seek compensation. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch)

    Chinese scholars noticed a similarity between black jails and the Shourong Qiansong system abolished in 2003, which is suspect, since black jails began operation in that same year. The Shourong Qiansong was a detention system that started around the 1980s that legally gave permission to police to detain “undesirables” lacking official ID papers. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) In other words, government officials and police had the power they needed to arrest anyone from petitioners to beggars if it suited them. Extralegal detention camps also target violators of the one child policy and followers of the Falungong movement. The Falungong movement is one of many systems of belief and practices that was outlawed by the government in 1999. Falungong petitioners have been subjected to torture, beatings, forced labor, organ harvesting, psychiatric abuses, and illegal imprisonment, in places similar to, if not black jails. (Beaumont)

    Provincial and municipal level officials developed the perfect system in order to catch the petitioners: the intercept, abduct and detain system. Officials hire thugs as guards, who call themselves “retrievers”. Retrievers often recognize their province’s most frequent petitioners on sight. Even if these innocent people lie about where they are from, their accent gives them away. Retrievers often dress scrubby as if they too are petitioning in order to fool them. Former detainees say that black jails are commonly found behind or under government ministry buildings, hotels, nursing homes, mental hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, and even residential buildings, among others. (Hartley) To passersby a black jail does not look suspicious. One woman said that his was a simple bungalow, which from the outside wouldn’t raise any suspicions. (Screams for help at China’s secret “Black Jails”) The black jail managers, usually letters and visits officials working in Beijing, hire guards and pay the hotel or institution in question to use the establishment. Daily payments are generally withing the range of 150 yuan to 300 yuan ($22-44 US). The rooms are then converted into temporary cells, fully equipped with iron bars and doors. There are also fenced in outdoor areas. In other parts of the building, there will be temporary offices for the retrievers and guards, as well as another area where new detainees are stripped of their ID, money, cell phones, and any other valuables. These facilities are all organized specifically to restrict detainee’s freedom of movement by using locked doors, barred windows, no access to communication, and 24 hour surveillance by the guards who are often armed with guns and clubs. As far as researchers are concerned, the only difference between black jail and real jail is that the detainees in black jail are actually innocent. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch)

    Seven to fifty black jails exist. Tracking them is very difficult because they are secretive and operate on a temporary “as needed” basis. Former detainees have brought journalists to their black jails, only to find them empty and abandoned. Local governments running black jails have relationships with police to ensure no interference by anyone of high power. Police actually play an active role in abuses against petitioners as they “turn a blind eye to retaliatory violence.” Beijing police sometimes double as retrievers. Police frequently believe that “petitioners are disruptive to the stability of the country”, probably because they are all complaining about all the corruption from police and higher officials. One detainee from Jiangsu province told Human Rights Watch that the municipal police showed up at the black jail he was being held at, made a “report”, but then abruptly departed and never freed him. Another said that when he contacted the police for assistance, they explained that they have no power to intervene in the black jail facilities “[Your detention] is the desire of upper levels [of government], and if you have opinions about that when this is over, consult the city government authorities or the mayor to solve. Anything that happens inside [black jails] we can’t go to investigate and [we] can’t solve any of your problems.” (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) During important dates on the Chinese Communist Party’s calendar, police forces prevent petitioners from reaching major cities while the ministry of public security “urges police to mobilize all of their resources” in order to prevent petitioners already in the city from reaching central government offices and “disturbing the social harmony and stability” of China’s celebrations.

    There are many different variations on the concept of black jails. One was called “Re-education through labor” where police impose custodial sentences up to three years while depriving detainees of any due process of law. Another was “house arrest” arbitrary detention at home that restricted and monitored Internet and phone use, along with 24-hour surveillance by security guards. The most common was the “Study classes”. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), government officials and security forces routinely detained individuals suspected of anti-government sentiments and put them in facilities described as “study classes” however, they are far from that. These people were taken there without formal arrest or trial, and they were generally people targeted by the Chinese government because they were exposing official corruption. Study classes were devoted to educating petitioners about their alleged wrongdoings: basically turning the law around and tell them that they were doing something against the law. Zhang Jianping, a human rights activist said of study classes “These black jails are clearly against the law. But local officials call them legal study classes, and that shows how they treat the law as just a tool for abusing rights.” (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch)

    Sometimes, the detainees must sign contracts stating they will never petition again in order to be freed. This is an act of deliberately stripping an innocent human being of their legal right. Others said they were forced to sign papers upon release from black jail which stated that they had not been detained but instead participated in a “study class” of their own free will!

    Here is a list of all the human rights violations involved in the black jail process: illegal abductions, physical violence, rape, denial of access to medical care, food and sleep deprivation, threats and mental assaults, theft, and extortion. It seems that with the elimination of black jails, there would be the elimination of more than one human rights abuse. Within the first four months of 2009, 15 detainees died an unnatural death. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) There were cases where people were having convulsion and spitting out blood, however the guards said that they did not care. One person said that they told him that he could die in the black jails for all that they care. There are also violations of children’s rights. One fifteen-year-old girl went to petition in the place of her grandmother and instead ended up in a black jail. Several former prisoners said that the guards also threaten detainees saying that if they petition in the future they can break your legs, get you locked up for 3 years in real jail, or they will kill your family. These underground facilities are responsible for countless deaths, illnesses, and family separations and should be stopped as soon as possible. Little is known about black jails, so in consequence, nothing is done about them. Awareness must be raised about the subject in order to start coming down on the black jails system.

    What should be done? Human rights groups and the United Nations should continue asking the Chinese government to stop denying the existence of black jails. This assures that those operating black jails will go unpunished. It would also be wise to create a separate police force form the general Beijing police and have them go investigate and report on black jails, the detainees, and their conditions. These police should be backed by the inner Chinese government and should have the power to close them down. The government should also establish an independent commission to examine and evaluate the adequacy of their “letters and visits” petitioning system. These individuals should find a way for the system to effectively and efficiently address the citizen’s problems. By improving the system, black jails will become used less and less. (An Alleyway in Hell-Human Rights Watch) Finally, we should raise awareness about black jails since it is a topic known to few people. We can only hope that the Chinese government recognizes these human rights violations and assist the citizens of their country.
     
  5. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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  6. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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  7. Godless-Kafir

    Godless-Kafir DFI Buddha Senior Member

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    How much harder would it be for India to launch an Democratic Naxal type campaign against the Communist government? There is so much descent in China that if it was properly channeled it can be used to bring down the government.
     
  8. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    "Deviant Petitioners:" Petitioners who raise genuine issues that potentially land the local-body or a contractor in deep-shit with their superiors.
     

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