'Black jails' investigated for illegally holding petitioners

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-27 08:12
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BEIJING - Police in the capital city are investigating a security service company that reportedly earns commissions for helping local governments intercept and lock up petitioners in "black jails", according to media reports.

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Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau officials have detained Zhang Jun, chairman of Anyuanding Security Service Company, and Zhang Jie, general manager of the company, for "illegally detaining people and illegal business operation", the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Saturday.

The company started business in 2004. In 2008 it began to help Beijing liaison offices of local governments to stop their petitioners from petitioning in Beijing.

According to media reports, the company first lied to the petitioners, telling them that their lodging has been provided. Then company workers took them to abandoned hotels or rented houses in suburban Beijing, seized their IDs and phones, and locked them up until the liaison offices told the company to help send the petitioners back to their hometowns.

Later, the company expanded its business and got more clients including even remote village governments to help the local governments "maintain stability", the report said.

The company charges liaison offices and local governments for "controlling, forcing and escorting petitioners," according to the report.

Yang Peigeng, a 75-year-old man, was once locked up by the company in its "jails" for a month.

"It was a farmer's courtyard," Yang was quoted as saying. "About 100 people, men and women, were living in the same room. We were very poorly fed."

The company's label had been removed and its website was shut down on Sunday. However, the company denied their service includes "allocating petitioners", and said its business is still going.

"I don't know about anything reported by the media. I'm in charge of bodyguard recruitment, and we're still doing business. I don't know if our company does any business like the media reported," said a man surnamed Yu who works for the company.

This is not the first time that "black jails for petitioners" hit media headlines.

On May 15, a guard received his final judgment of eight years behind bars for raping a female petitioner who had been illegally held in custody.

Xu Jian, the 27-year-old rapist, attacked a 21-year-old woman during her forced stay in a quasi-official "black jail" located in a Beijing hotel on Aug 4 last year in the presence of others who were held in the same room.