Al Jazeera: Inside China’s “Black Jails”

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, who last week encountered plainclothes state security police when attempting to interview a high-profile lawyer about proposed changes to China’s Criminal Procedure Law, follows a mother to one of China’s infamous “black jails” in search of her daughter:

While Chan’s report paints a dark picture of the reality facing a number of unknown prisoners in China, a China Daily piece on Monday claims that the draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, which was submitted late last week for a vote at China’s National People’s Congress, will give suspects greater protection. Caixin Online has more on the details of the draft law:

The draft law, which includes 99 items, covers human rights protections, standards for witness testimony and evidence-gathering. The law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on March 10, with 168 votes in favor, one abstention and one dissenting vote. Another vote by the National People’s Congress is scheduled to be held on March 14 and the law is expected to be implemented in 2013.

The amendments provoked criticism from several quarters of China’s legal profession, with much of the scrutiny falling on the substance of Article 73 of the draft law.

Under the “residential surveillance” provision, law enforcement agencies will be permitted to detain individuals away from home for an unspecified amount of time. Article 73 of the draft law confers the government the right to detain individuals if they are suspected of involvement in cases related to national security, terrorism or corruption.

Netizens were ablaze with chatter over the new law. One wrote, “These stand as mere slogans on human rights but are ultimately a means to expand police powers,” said a netizen.

Over the weekend, Seeing Red in China’s Yaxue Cao translated and posted a number of Sina Weibo comments in response to the proposed law:

Mar. 9 03:49 Sina Weibo  Repost(4504) Comment(1080)

  • 天勇律师江 /Lawyer Jiang Tianyong/(renowned human rights lawyer)/:  Last year, a friend of mine disappeared for two months. Family and friends looked for him everywhere, reported to the police, but didn’t find him. Two months later he returned, his wife received a dozen or so photographs of him with women in bed. The couple fought and filed for divorce. His younger brother was fired from his job for no particular reasons. He told me later that, over the two months, he was repeatedly beaten and 14 times he lost consciousness. Sometimes he was given only one piece of bread to eat in three days. Other times, he was forced to be in bed with a woman and embrace her….What kind of country is this?

Mar. 9 04:41 Sina Weibo  Repost(1333) Comment(427)

  • 文涛‏@wentommy/(former reporter with Global Times English edition, fired for reporting on a protest led by Ai Weiwei against forced demolition of an art area in Beijing by unidentified thugs in 2010 ) /: I once had a respectable job, [my history ] was rather clearly defined, and I was lawful in both my private and public life. But even I was detained for 83 days for I don’t know whatever reason. Not a single organization, nobody, not even Taliban, has claimed responsibility for my detention. When endorsing the new revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law, legislators believe they are fighting against the enemies of the state, but pretty soon, they will find the enemies are none other than themselves. The worst time is when no one feels safe. And don’t laugh—we’re all in it.

See also this week’s cartoon for Hexie Farm‘s CDT series, which responds to the proposed changes in the Criminal Procedure Law.