Beijing's "invisible" prisons for those who protest legally

China Aid Association
Those who present legal petitions against the authorities are often arrested and detained in hotel rooms, with the complicity of the owners, before being sent back to their home towns. But human rights activists denounce the illegal detentions, and are themselves going to free the prisoners.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Detained “in hiding,” in “invisible” prisons. This happens to many of those who go to Beijing to present petitions to the government, a right recognized for all Chinese, but strongly opposed by the authorities. Now human rights groups are denouncing the hotels that function as prisons.
Xu Zhiyong, a law professor at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, explains that he received a request for help from people locked up at the Youth Hotel on Taiping Street, near Taoranting Park. He went to the hotel with others, where he found about 30 people who had submitted petitions, especially from Henan.
Wang Jinlan from Pingdingshan tells the South China Morning Post that the authorities kept her prisoner for two days, before the activists came on September 22 to free her. The Youth Hotel is one of four hotels that, according to local sources, have the reputation of being used to lock up those who want to protest, before they are sent back to their home towns. Activists say that the hotel owners receive 150 yuan a day (about 15 euros) for each “detainee,” higher than their usual rate of 120 yuan.
It is typical of the Chinese system that dissatisfied citizens go to Beijing to present “petitions,” genuine laments and accusations against the abuses of the local authorities. But the provincial leaders want to keep Beijing from being informed. So, with the help of the police or thugs, they intercept those who go to the capital to protest, and even have them beaten and arrested. There has been a great uproar over the case of a 54-year-old woman from Nanchang (Jiangxi), arrested in Beijing on July 14 for presenting a petition. The following day, while she was being taken back home by train, she killed herself – according to the police report – by throwing herself from a bridge near the train station. In Beijing, during the Olympics, thousands of petitioners ended up in jail, while many others were immediately sent back home.
Before, these people were kept in “detention centers” before being taken home. But in March of 2003, a young graphic designer, Sun Zhigang, was beaten to death by the guards in one of these centers, in Guangzhou.The popular protest after this led to the abolition of these centers. Now they have been replaced by these invisible prisons, which are “even worse,” says Xu, “because they amount to illegal imprisonment,” not provided for by the law and used against those who are exercising their right to petition. Hotel managers and thugs have beaten Xu repeatedly when he has come to expose them. But he is not giving up. He says that “we’ll fight the cancers until they disappear.”



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