Five dead in breakout from detention centre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2000, 12:00am

Five men are dead and four have disappeared after a foiled escape attempt by 16 people at a detention centre in Guangdong province last month.

According to a report in the China Youth Daily, 16 of Guangdong Province Pingshi Detention Centre's 30 detainees tried escaping while they were outside performing manual labour. Only seven returned to the detention centre, including one who was injured.

'The people we detain aren't criminals, so usually when they escape they can just run away. We aren't able to act like police and run after them,' local government Civil Affairs Bureau Director Li Xinhua said.

While official reports say the dead drowned in the Wujiang River, which is only 100 metres away from the detention centre, fishermen said they saw the escapees pursued by guards with nightsticks and a policeman with a gun, and that they heard gunshots.

Reporters saw at least six handguns while interviewing officials at the detention centre.

'It's too tragic. They were all basically children, barely 20 years of age. They were hounded to death. How can the detention centre not take responsibility?' one witness was quoted as saying.

In Guangdong, a person can be detained if they fall into the category of the 'three have nots' - no identity card, no work permit or no residence permit.

'I've examined many of the detention papers submitted by police and many don't really fall into the category of someone who should be detained,' said Qi Yuewen, who is in charge of the follow-up investigation.

'But the police aren't just going to believe someone who says they forgot their identity card at their dormitory. They are going to detain them.

'The escapees were part of an organised effort and it was their decision to flee. If they died, its their own problem. I'm pretty sure none of the escapees died.'

According to the report, the detention centres have an arrangement to pay police 200 yuan (HK$186) in 'work funds' for anyone found at a train station without a ticket or a residence card. Detention centres that transfer detainees to another facility also receive 100 to 200 yuan.

'When we don't have enough money in the treasury to pay our permanent staff, the rest comes from fees paid by the detainees to secure their release,' Mr Li said.

The report states there were similar escape attempts from Pingshi in April, May and June of this year, which resulted in three deaths by drowning.