For the first time, a court in Beijing condemns the system of "black jails"
Beijing (AsiaNews) - A Beijing court has sentenced a group of 10 men who, on behalf of the provincial government, detained 12 Henan citizens who had traveled to the capital to present the petitions of protest to the central government. Of the convicts, only one will have to serve a year in prison, while the other 9 have received milder punishments. The decision was greeted with "cautious optimism" on the part of civil rights activists operating in China.
Shuling Sang, a member of the group arrested illegally, is not satisfied: "Some of the main guys behind it got away. I told the judge I had one of the name cards [business cards, ed] of the deputy head of the criminal gang ...but when I said I wanted a receipt, he didn't want it. They still haven't given us a copy of the judgement, they said they'd send it to us".
Ding Xinfang told Radio Free Asia that she, too, is dissatisfied: "I think they're passing the buck. We were picked up and taken to the 'detention center' of Jiujingzhuang on the outskirts of Beijing. I was dragged to the side of the road by 7 youths and beaten. They were afraid that, if we left the 'center', we would return to the office with our petitions."
Every year in China millions of ordinary citizens try to reach the capital to present their complaints against corrupt communist officials in the provinces. The procedure is provided for and guaranteed by the Constitution. However, fearing this army of complaintants, over the years the central government has approved a number of laws that have given the public security forces the power to "kidnap" and retain the petitioners for up to three years without trial in so-called "black jails".
In the words of the great dissident Bao Tong, it is this very mingling of political power and the judiciary that has created a blackout in the Chinese social system that every year causes tens of thousands of social protests. Last October, the government published a draft judicial reform that promised to "respond to abuse" of power, including harassment against lawyers and the system of "re-education through labor". So far, however, the reform has remained on paper.
Huang Qi, a civil rights activist who lives in Sichuan, said: "If nothing else, this ruling will force the gangs of kidnappers to feel the fear of the law. It may not be enough to prevent large-scale activities that take place in the country, but at least it will show that the government is not prepared to offer full protection to these people."