'Black Jail' Plea from Hospital

Hubei-based petitioner Guo Dajing has called for international pressure after he was detained at an unofficial detention center and severely beaten.
2008-11-20
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Petitioners in Beijing
Petitioners in Beijing show case materials to a journalist ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
AFP

HONG KONGA man who tried to lodge a complaint against official corruption in his hometown in the central Chinese province of Hubei was detained in one of a growing number of "black jails" or unofficial detention centers and severely beaten, he said from his hospital bed.

Guo Dajing, of Yunxi county, was detained and dragged back to his hometown by police, local officials, and hired thugs while he was in Beijing to file a complaint in September. He was taken to the detention center where he was beaten up, and then later transferred to a local hospital.

"Right now I have been taken once more to the hospital by them. There were more than a dozen people guarding me before. Now there are two," he said from Yunxi County Hospital.

"They won't let me [talk to anyone from outside]. They have confiscated both my cellphones already."

He accused police from his hometown of behaving "like muggers."

They didn't let anyone know what had happened to me, even when I was really badly hurt."

Guo Dajing

"I was in Beijing and they kidnapped me back here, and took me to an unofficial detention center and then they beat me up," said Guo, who was offered a job for his wife and free schooling for his child if he agreed to drop the corruption allegations.

Fears for his life

"They didn't let anyone know what had happened to me, even when I was really badly hurt," he said.

"To begin with, there were six or seven police officers and a few criminal gang members. There were also officials sent from the relevant departments. That was in all about 20 or 30 people. Then their numbers slowly dwindled to  between 10 and 20," Guo said.

"On Nov. 17, they forced me from the unofficial detention center to a hospital. On the face of it they wanted me to get treatment," he said.

"But in reality it's to do with responsibility for my safety. Right now there are no guarantees I will live, and as long as I'm in the detention center I am their responsibility."

"I was cruelly beaten, and they didn't treat me before. I have high blood pressure and a fatty liver. I have a lot of medical problems," he said in an interview through an alternate phone line.

Black jails on the rise

Guo, who was cut off during the course of speaking, said he had refused to accept the offer made by officials on Nov. 17, as he had no idea how much longer they would detain him in the center, which has no official existence under Chinese law.

Local government officials are increasingly using such unofficial detention centers as a way to control the millions of disgruntled people trying to get to Beijing to make a complaint about alleged official wrongdoing, often related to land deals, corruption and forced evictions.

Known in China as "black jails," they have no official status, unlike police detention, criminal arrest, or formal sentences to jail or labor camp.

They are holding camps for the large numbers of people who flock to central government complaints departments in the capital daily, seeking redress for grievances against officials.

Tales of success are rare, and yet the hope of redress propels some to spend decades taking their papers from department to department.

Threats to family

Guo's wife Cao Xiangzhen said this was the first time Guo had managed to speak to the media since being detained in September 2007 by local officials in Beijing after traveling there to lodge a petition.

She said she hadn't been able to speak to her husband by phone. She had heard of her husband's whereabouts after his detention only from friends.

Calls to politics and law Party committee chairman Wang Chuanwen of the Yunxi county government, to the head of the county public security bureau Yan Daoping, and to county Party secretary Lu Fuchang went unanswered during office hours this week.

"The authorities don't dare to admit that they have detained Guo Dajing. They are denying that it ever happened," Cao Xiangzhen said.

"But they have also let it be known that they will hound him to death if he continues to petition against them, or if he gives interviews to the media."

Cao said she wanted to tell people about her husband's torture, both mental and physical, at the hands of the authorities, despite threats against her family, to put pressure on the authorities to stop.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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