A court in Beijing sentenced ten people to jail for running an illicit "black jail."
The offenders were sentenced to up to two years in prison for illegally operating the jail, CS Monitor reported. The unprecedented move came as a nice surprise to lawyers who believe it to be a step in the right direction to eliminate extralegal detention, a common practice in China.
“This is a good start in the legal fight against black jails,” said Tang Hongxin, a lawyer who has assisted victims of illegal imprisonment. “I hope the government will step up this fight” after ignoring the problem for years, he says.
'Black Jails' are secret detention facilities designed to weed out threats to the communist party. The detention camps, which range from hotel rooms, to empty government offices, to schools, are used to imprison anyone who attempts to travel to Beijing to appeal to the central government.While in the jails, petitioners are subject to beating, sleep and food deprivation and psychological abuse. Then, they are sent back home.
According to Scotsman.com, the paramilitary forces' funding has exceeded the national defense budget for the past three years. The capital is used to pay for the regular criminal justice system, civilians to be on the lookout for potential trouble makers, bounty hunters to arrest petitioners who are on their way to Beijing, and the jails that holds them.
The ten people sentenced for running the 'Black Jail' were all from the poor province of Henan in Yuzhou and falsely imprisoned 11 petitioners also from Henan, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.
“The court ruled that Wang Gaowei and the other nine respondents had infringed the personal rights of the 11 petitioners, which constituted the crime of false imprisonment,” the publication wrote.
This is the first time that Beijing's officials take action against the paramilitary forces that run 'Black Jails,' CS Monitor noted.
The Chinese Government's sudden interest in eradicating or even acknowledging the existence of 'Black Jails' comes at the perfect time for their upcoming leadership transition as "the incoming officers want to be seen as determined to clean up their ranks" given the government's reputation of being corrupt and abusing its power, Al Jazeera points out.