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An American in China

Archive for June 22nd, 2010

Black Jails in China- No Justice No Justice

Posted by w_thames_the_d on June 22, 2010

Great peace here by Gordon Ross. He writes about black jails in China. These are somewhat illegal jails, think Guantanamo, that detain people who wish to practice their right to protest against a local government. When the people wish to exercise this right, they are frequently beaten, tortured, raped, and then re-educated or sent to work in the fields. This is not a phenomenon from the 18 or 1900’s but a practice still alive today. Beijing, it is said, has at least 70 of these jails in operation currently.

“The company denied any wrongdoing, and when he tried to take his case to the local court, he was detained and beaten by men he said were hired by the insurer. Five years later, in 2008, he was still seeking justice, now in Beijing. In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, Xu was taken to an illegal holding facility, where he was held in a small room alone for three months.

“I was starved every day,” Xu told IPS in an interview at a Beijing café, holding laminated photos of himself bloodied and bruised, which he said were taken after the first beating he suffered in 2003. “I was given very little to eat. I was in handcuffs all the time.” He still has scars on his wrists.

Secretive and makeshift “black jails,” as they are often called, are used to stop petitioners from taking their grievances to authorities in Beijing and other cities. According to a report released last November by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), petitioners in China are routinely incarcerated without due process in these illegal jails, where they are allegedly beaten and sometimes raped by their captors.

The jails are often sparsely furnished rooms with barred windows in the basements of apartment buildings or in official buildings in suburbs. Hotels, nursing homes and psychiatric centres also serve as unofficial prisons. Petitioners, who travel to Beijing to lodge complaints with the central government, are captured and held by unofficial guards sent by provincial or district authorities, who are embarrassed that citizens under their jurisdiction are seeking help from Beijing, the report said.

Black jails have become a cottage industry in China, charging provincial officials about 300 renminbi (about 44 U.S. dollars) per day to hold petitioners. HRW estimates that 10,000 people are held in detention centres each year, and many are held more than once. The 38 petitioners interviewed by HRW reported being deprived of food and sleep and subjugated to threats and acts of violence.

“I asked why they were detaining me, and as a group [the guards] came in and punched and kicked me and said they wanted to kill me,” said one former detainee interviewed in the report.

Petitioning is a centuries-old tradition that grants citizens the right to bring unsettled complaints to a higher level of government. In 1949, a government agency was established to process petitions, and in 1954, departments under the central government were set up at provincial, county and city levels to receive letters and visits.

Petitioners lack a strong support network and must rely on each other for help, especially those in Beijing, said Wang Songlian, research coordinator for China Human Rights Defenders, a non-profit network of grassroots activists. “They’ve been petitioning for so many years they’re alienated from their families and the people they interact with,” she told IPS.

Last October, black jails came to public attention after a 21-year-old woman who was raped by a security guard reported the incident to police, who pursued the case. The guard was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

Since 2003, thousands of petitioners have disappeared while government officials have looked the other way, the HRW study said.

“Things like this don’t exist in China,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said at a press conference last April, according to HRW. A Chinese government report in June 2009 to the United Nations stated, “There are no black jails in China.”

Last December, however, the government finally acknowledged the problem. A report in the December issue of ‘Outlook’ magazine, which is owned by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, found that there were 73 black jails in Beijing alone.

Liu Jie is a leading advocate for petitioner’s rights in China, and was once one herself. In 1997, a local official in north-east China’s Heilongjiang province tried to extort money from Liu. When her protests at local courts were ignored, she traveled to Beijing, where she was detained in a black jail and beaten.

In 2007, she was sent to a Helongjiang labour camp for 18 months in retaliation for distributing public letters calling for government reform. In the camp she was put in solitary confinement, beaten and denied food and waters for periods of up to five days.

Today, Liu, 58, continues to fight for petitioners’ rights despite injuries incurred while in prison. She helps organise accommodation and financial assistance and spearheads legal battles.

It is an uphill battle for Liu and others like her. Her activities are monitored and even within the ranks of petitioners there are spies who report back to the government.

“The government says rooms cannot be rented to petitioners,” Liu told IPS. “They are followed everywhere. They don’t have resources – no money, no power.”

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Chinese Pollution- China Fact

Posted by w_thames_the_d on June 22, 2010

Information from here

Toxic air and water are killing an estimated 710,000 to 760,000 Chinese each year. Even in a country of more than 1.3 billion people, that is a shocking toll. (Source: Washington Post)

The numbers of people dying from pollution, in the Cancer villages, (Source: BBC) or from drinking the black rivers are staggering. Those not dying are suffering a hideous cost to their health, the health of their children, and their quality of life.

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China- Fighting the System and Losing

Posted by w_thames_the_d on June 22, 2010

This is a few stories within one. Firstly it shows the lack of justice in China, as well as problems that people face in terms of discrimination in employment here.

Judge protests court axing his wife
Feng Bin, wearing a judge’s uniform and holding a flyer with the Chinese character yuan, meaning “grievance” in English, quarrels with the guards of Hubei Higher People’s Court at the court’s front gate on Monday, June 21, 2010. [China Daily]

The move was the latest in his two-year attempt, so far unsuccessful, to help his “illegally laid-off” wife return to her job by suing her employer – another local court.

He asked the Hubei Higher People’s Court in Central China on Monday to accept his lawsuit, but soon was pushed and shoved by three court police officers who turned him and his flyer away.

“Just go. You can’t be here,” they told him.

Xiaogan Intermediate People’s Court sacked Feng’s wife, Hu Min, in June 2008 after her 10 years of service as a cleaner there.

The Labor Contract Law, a new law that took effect in 2008 to protect the basic rights and interests of workers, stipulates that employers must sign open-ended contracts with employees with 10 years or more service.

Another 30 people were sacked along with Hu under a Xiaogan city government directive in 2008 to get rid of temporary workers.

However, Hu was the only one – under Feng’s instruction – to fight for her rights.

“My wife deserves an open-ended contract with the court according to the law. Government and judicial power should never overweigh laws,” Feng told China Daily outside the higher court on Monday.

He sought arbitration in mid-2008. However, the arbitration committee in Xiaogan upheld the court’s decision, saying the law had taken effect for just six months and could not count her nine and a half years service as the full 10 years required.

Feng then filed lawsuits against the Xiaogan Intermediate People’s Court to other courts in the province but was declined many times.

Realizing “it is hard for a court to try another court,” Feng’s frustration escalated.

He had a fight with police when protesting in front of the local municipal bureau of labor. He tried to stop the cars of senior government officials and judges to complain, and he even sneaked into the country’s top court, the Supreme People’s Court, in Beijing to petition.

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More Chinese Justice

Posted by w_thames_the_d on June 22, 2010

Lottery officials in Shaanxi province rejected a winning ticket, calling it a fake and denying its bearer, a 17-year-old security guard named Liu Liang (this man was poor, probably made less than 50U$ per month), the grand prize of a $58,000 BMW and 120,000 yuan ($14,510) in cash.

Liu became so angry about being accused of fraud and denied the car that he climbed atop a high advertising billboard and threatened to jump as a show of innocence. But the story didn’t end when police officers managed to talk him down. News broadcasts covered his continued insistence that he did not forge his ticket, along with the lottery center’s claims that their rejection of the ticket was legitimate.

The police finally stepped in and, after a careful investigation, announced that they had found the true criminal: Yang Yongming, a private businessman whom the local lottery administration had contracted to organize ticket sales. Yang had conspired with the government officials directing the lottery, who were arrested for malfeasance, to fraudulently obtain the top prizes. In June Liu Liang finally got what he deserved – a BMW-325i sedan and a sincere apology from the lottery center.

If the first scandal was a tragedy, the second was more like a farce. But both offer keys to understanding contemporary Chinese psychology. The outcry after the first BMW case was not really about the light sentence given to a rich woman, but about the lack of confidence ordinary people have in China’s judicial system. In China, power, money, and connections trump the law. Even as they are becoming ever more litigious, many Chinese believe that they have no hope of securing justice against the powerful. The apathetic response of the dead peasant woman’s husband to the $10,000 in compensation he received was telling. “I don’t care about the verdict and whether it is justice or not,” he said.

The most harmful consequence is the public’s loss of trust in the system. Social trust is not something you can buy with money. If an entire society believes that you cannot depend on legal rights for protection – that one must instead rely on a web of relationships with those who have power and influence – questions about whether such a society is livable or desirable will remain.

from http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/hu1/English

by Hu Wong

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Religion in China- Not

Posted by w_thames_the_d on June 22, 2010

I am doing some research on religion in China, or the lack thereof. I would be interested to hear your experiences. I know that religion or its practices are not barred to foreigner with the caveat that they do not try to preach to the natives. What have you seen or heard?

Here is a snippet about possible reasons for China not having religion.

“One possible reason for China’s behavior has to do with its desire to assert its power as the state over its people. China itself has no opposition to religion, but its policy of closely monitoring religious groups shows that the state is concerned with people believing in “illegal religions.” By making beliefs illegal, the Chinese assert that a secular, atheist government is more important than anything else in the lives of its people. For instance, at the Olympic games in Beijing, the Chinese provided spaces for religious worship to foreign visitors, but these spaces were not open to the Chinese populace. This is, in effect, a statement by the Chinese that the right to religion is a state right and not a human right, which in turn is indicative of a belief that the state has more power and rights than the individual.

Read more at Suite101: The Motivations Of China’s Religious Persecution: Why China Restricts Religion – A Matter of Statism and Revolution http://religious-persecution.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_motivations_of_chinas_religious_persecutio#ixzz0rYFRRuB0

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