Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are holding a woman and her six-month-old baby daughter in a local detention center, a Chinese rights group said.
Petitioner Lie Lina, who had previously tried to pursue an official complaint about her forced eviction with central authorities in Beijing, was taken away by police on Feb. 23, ahead of the annual parliamentary meetings in Beijing, her sister, Lie Lihong, told RFA.
"My sister didn't go to Beijing after Lunar New Year, and she didn't go and petition anywhere, either," Lie Lihong said.
"Our village officials paid someone to call her up and get her to go 'back to her hometown' on false pretenses," she said. "At noon on [Feb.] 24 they locked her up in the Xiancheng Detention Center."
Lie was able to inform her family of her whereabouts by asking someone to smuggle a letter out of the detention center for her, she said.
She said her parents had traveled to the detention center last weekend in a bid to pay her sister a visit, but were refused.
"On [Tuesday] they went up to Beijing because they planned to distribute leaflets in Tiananmen Square, but they were detained by officials from our local government representative office in Beijing," Lie Lihong said.
"It all started because the village Party secretary wanted to take over the land that was earmarked for my sister's house. He confiscated it from my sister and wouldn't let her build on it," she said.
Liu Feiyue, head of the Hubei-based rights group China Rights Observer, said the detention of Lie and her six-month-old infant daughter Yuanyuan was inhumane.
"How is it acceptable to lock up a baby of just a few months old in a detention center?" Liu said. "She needs all kinds of things, including immunizations, which would be hard to do there."
"This is an example of an extremely rude violation of human rights under the current drive to 'maintain stability,'" he said. "This is a barbaric act."
Liu said that Lie Lina's detention had come amid a nationwide crackdown on petitioners who tried to visit Beijing to lodge complaints about local governments.
He said the children of petitioners are particularly vulnerable to being incarcerated alongside their parents.
"There have been previous cases like this ... from Heilongjiang and Liaoning where petitioners have brought their children to Beijing and they have been locked up together," Liu said.
"Some have been locked up in detention centers, while others have been held in black jails, some of them for a very long time."
China’s army of petitioners say they are repeatedly stonewalled, detained in “black jails,” beaten, and harassed by authorities if they try to take complaints against local government actions to higher levels of government.
Many have been trying to win redress for alleged cases of official wrongdoing—including forced evictions, beatings in custody, and corruption linked to lucrative land sales—for decades.
Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.