By Tamara Gil
Beijing: The use of hotels and factories as clandestine prisons where thousands of people — mostly women — are tortured to prevent their complaints against the government from coming to light has rapidly increased in China, an organisation Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said.
In a report entitled, “We’ll Beat You to Death With Impunity,” the NGO highlights thousands of cases of Chinese citizens who have suffered human rights abuses in the last five years while confined in “black jails” in Beijing and 11 of the country’s provinces.
“We call them black jails because they are hidden from public view, often disguised as ‘hotels’ and ‘factories’, and they are illegal. That is, they are hidden from the view of the public and the law. This means detainees can be tortured and mistreated with impunity,” CHRD’s Hong Kong coordinator Wendy Lin told Efe news agency.
Most of those imprisoned are petitioners, that is people who travel to Beijing with petitions or complaints against the government and are often made to share their cells with prostitutes, dissidents and activists.
About 80 percent of the prisoners are women, who are most vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse by guards, who are all men.
Detainees can spend up to six years holed up without any right to an attorney or trial, according to the CHRD report.
The organisation documents all types of mistreatment meted out to women from different age groups, from adolescents to adults over the age of 50.
Wang, 60, was abducted from her home in the middle of the night by several men who imprisoned her in a hotel and beat her for three days before allowing her to call her family.
Her daughter was going to be forcefully sterilised by the government and Wang was planning to travel to Beijing to file a complaint. She was imprisoned to prevent her from doing so and to provoke her daughter to come out from hiding.
The authorities continue to deny the existence of such ad hoc prisons while officials keep on detaining people in order to maintain “social stability”, the report says.
The number of black jails has increased since the government’s re-education camps, where anyone could be held captive for a maximum of three years without trial, were closed in 2013 following reports of extreme torture in these centres.
Gai Fengzhen, 57, spent many years imprisoned in black jails in Beijing and in her native Lianoning province for petitioning against police inaction and favouritism.
She recalled days when she was given stale bread and salt water to eat, which caused her to vomit blood, and spent months in a cell with her hands tied above her head and feet chained to the ground.