Inside China’s “Sunshine Detention Centre”

The Guardian’s Tania Branigan visited a model pre-trial detention centre in Beijing, where birthday noodles and counselling take the place of and fatal “hide and seek accidents”. Her report describes the apparent conditions in the facility, and discusses how representative of reality this carefully presented showcase might be.

Allowing reporters to visit Beijing No 1 and 2 centres was a surprising move by public security officials, who usually avoid foreign media. But it was only a tiny glimpse of the highest quality facilities in the country.

Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at , said there was no doubt the facilities were the country’s best, but added: “It does tell you something: it means this is what the government sees it should be doing … I don’t think China is building model detention centres just to fool the international community.”

[…] But John Kamm of Dui Hua, which advocates for political and religious prisoners and monitors developments in the criminal justice system, pointed out that not everyone was held in a detention centre: those put under were held in “guest houses” run by the Public Security Bureau. Last year, several of those held under such conditions during a crackdown on activists and lawyers, subsequently described being tortured.

In August, lawyer Zhang Yansheng recounted his own visit to a client in a Guangdong detention centre, and complained that conditions inside prevented him from offering effective legal counsel. In addition to residential surveillance, black jails and house arrests, there is also the notorious shuanggui system reserved for Party members, in which Bo Xilai now appears to be held and retired Hunan official Wang Zhongping died under disputed circumstances late last month.