China's secret detention centers
A new report alleges sprawling system of "black jails" used to detain Chinese citizens petitioning for redress.
The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
The report, called "An Alleyway in Hell" [pdf, 737.06 kb], was just released Thursday morning from Human Rights Watch. It describes Chinese citizens being abducted off the streets of Beijing and other cities with no charges. The citizens were imprisoned in state-owned hotels, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals, where the conditions are often brutal.
Phelim Kine is a researcher for Human Rights Watch. He says the Chinese call these underground detention centers "black jails."
"These facilities are completely off the books. They are legal black holes where government officials, security forces and their agents detain people who they abduct off the streets, people who they consider 'undesirables' in Chinese cities, and leave them in these places for lengths of time ranging from several days to even several months."
Kine says a variety of abuses are visited upon the detainees, including beatings, sexual violence, food and sleep depravation and denial of medical care.
Those detained are usually Chinese citizens who are petitioning the government for legal redress on a variety of issues.
According to Kine, these "black jails" are a way to hide away these petitioners when the government wishes to "purge" the streets. "It's also a way to eliminate any perception that China has these types of conflicts, these types of issues, these types of human rights abuses from public view."
In the Human Rights Watch report, Sophie Richardson, the organization's Asia advocacy director, calls on the Chinese government to shut down the secret detention centers:
"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. The government should move swiftly to close these facilities, investigate those running them, and provide assistance to those abused in them."
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