China illegally detaining citizens in 'black jails': rights group

[JURIST] Chinese citizens are being abducted by state agents and illegally detained in "black jails" where they are subjected to a host of human rights violations, according to a report [text, PDF] released Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to the report, the black jails are primarily used to sequester petitioners who come from rural areas to Beijing and other provincial capitals in order to pursue justice for wrongs that could not be resolved at local, lower levels of government. HRW built their report on the testimonies of 38 former detainees, including women and children, with all reporting unambiguously harsh conditions and many detailing physical and psychological abuse including beatings, sexual violence, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and no access to legal counsel or medical care. HRW Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said [press release], "[t]he 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 Chinese government has systematically denied [AP report] all allegations of black jails, most recently doing so in a briefing on Thursday from Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesman Qin Gang.

In August, the Chinese government banned [JURIST report] the common practice of traveling to the capital of Beijing to file legal complaints. Under the new regulations, Chinese authorities will send representatives to provinces that produce many petitioners, and petitioners will also be able to file complaints online. In April, the Chinese government issued its first national plan [JURIST report] aimed at protecting human rights. The plan aims to protect people's rights to education, employment, medical and old-age care, and housing. It also seeks to protect ethnic minorities, promote gender equality, guarantee suspects the right to an impartial trial, and prohibit illegal detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects. The plan is based on principles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], which the government has signed [accession chart] but not ratified [JURIST report].

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