Petitioners languish for weeks in Beijing 'black jail'
The three petitioners from the central province of Hunan were held in Beijing for more than a month in a 'black jail' linked to their local government despite a crackdown on such secret detention facilities.
The petitioners from Chenzhou - including two over the age of 70 - were beaten and, for a time, fed only instant noodles, one of the detainees said yesterday. They were released after other petitioners brought reporters and rights activists to the jail on Friday to demand their release.
The petitioner, Yo Hong, 57, said she was thrown into the detention centre in Beijing's Fengtai district on December 5 after she was stopped by guards near Zhongnanhai, the central compound that houses the headquarters of the Communist Party and the central government.
The widow was locked inside a three-storey building with metal mesh windows along with Chen Bixiang, 72, a woman, and Gong Jiangbao, 82, a man. They were watched by guards with Hunan accents.
'We had take-out food in the first few days, but we were later only given one pack of instant noodles per meal,' Yu said. 'Sometimes they just beat us up for no reason, regardless of how frail we were.'
Calls to the Chenzhou city government's liaison office yesterday went unanswered, but the plight of the petitioners sheds further light on the mainland's secret detention centres - or 'black jails' - where petitioners are locked up to prevent them from approaching central government agencies with their complaints.
Under the mainland's controversial petition system, people with little faith in lower-level authorities can go to higher authorities to have their grievances heard, which can be a source of intense embarrassment for lower-level officials.
Media revelations of the existence of the jails forced police to launch a campaign last month targeting security firms involved.
Yu has been petitioning various government departments in her hometown since 2005 after her only son, aged 23, died in suspicious circumstances while working for a hydropower company in Chenzhou.