China Rejects Human Rights Watch Report on Black Jails
12 November 2009
China has rejected a report by Human Rights Watch on the country's so-called black jails - unofficial detention centers where people are held to keep them from seeking help for their problems from the central government.
|Human rights activist Liu Dejun looks through room in 'black jail' in Beijing (File)|
For this would-be petitioner, from the east coast city of Qingdao, black jails are very much a reality. He spoke to VOA a few months ago.
He says since January 2008, he has been to Beijing 12 times to petition the central government about the local village head confiscating his land and home. He says local authorities followed him and fellow villagers to the Chinese capital, and forcibly brought them home.
He says he was thrown into a black jail twice.
He says the black jail he went to was not part of the official jail system, and was in a nondescript building with an iron gate and iron gratings over the windows.
He says the first time, he was locked by himself in a single room in a building that had many rooms. He says he spent two days at this facility, and that four other petitioners from different places were being held there too. The second time, he escaped, and when VOA spoke to him, he was on the run from authorities.
This account is in line with a new Human Rights Watch report on black jails. The report says that since 2003, large numbers of Chinese citizens have been held incommunicado for days or months in secret, unlawful black jail detention facilities. Usually, they are handed over to officials from their communities who force them to go home.
The report says most of the detainees are rural residents who come to Beijing to seek redress for abuses ranging from illegal land grabs and government corruption to police torture.
At a briefing Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang repeated his government's denial that black jails even exist.
Qin questions Human Rights Watch's motives in issuing what he describes as a "so-called report." He also says "there are no so-called black jails in China."
The petitioner from Qingdao, whose name is being withheld for his protection, describes a complex web of corruption in his hometown. He says local officials use the money they embezzle to make connections with other government departments or gangs, so that petitioners have no where to turn but to the central government.
He says the corruption in his village affects everyone there. He says although he and his fellow villagers are indignant, they are afraid of being beaten, and so do not dare to say a word to the authorities.