11/12/2009, 00.00
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Illegal jails in the heart of Beijing

Human Rights Watch accuses government of abducting dissidents and petitioners in the street and locking them up without trial in hotel rooms or psychiatric hospitals. Detainees are victims of violence and intimidation. Catholic priests and bishops are among them.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China is running a number of unlawful detention centres in which its citizens can be kept for months. Known as ‘black jails’, these facilities are often located in state-run hotels, nursing homes or psychiatric hospitals, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report it released yesterday, titled ‘An Alleyway in Hell.’

Among those detained are ordinary people who travelled to Beijing to report local injustices. Under Chinese law individual petitions shedding light on abuses of power are theoretically encouraged, but the reality is very different, no more so than in the last year when the authorities tightened its screw on people demanding justice.

Black jails are also used to put dissidents and religious leaders under lock and key, especially when certain politically “sensitive” anniversaries come up.

Every year, when the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approaches (4 June), the regime’s best known opponents suddenly vanish only to appear afterwards. When religious dates come up, underground priests and bishops end up hotel rooms under guard.

According to the HRW, the authorities even abduct people in the street and put them in ‘black jails’.

HRW actually spoke to 38 former black jail detainees. “I asked why they were detaining me,” said one, “and as a group [the guards] came in and punched and kicked me and said they wanted to kill me.”

“The existence of black jails in the heart of Beijing makes a mockery of the Chinese government's rhetoric on improving human rights and respecting the rule of law,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

China regular denies such claims, but even state-run media outlets have reported the existence of black jails.

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