Reports of Mass Release of Petitioners Questioned

On Tuesday, Chengdu-based human rights group Tianwang reported that tens of thousands of petitioners had been released from Jiujingzhuan Relief Service Center, a “black jail” in Beijing. South China Morning Post picked up the report:

The news of the release was first reported online by Chengdu-based Tianwang Human Rights Centre , which said it was informed by a petitioner who had been set free.

Shen Zhihua, a native of eastern Zhejiang province, told the Post in a phone interview that she petitioned in front of state television CCTV on Tuesday morning. The police arrested her and sent her to a detention centre in Beijing’s Jiujing village. She was freed about 7.30pm yesterday evening.

“I estimated the number to be 70,000,” she said, referring to the number of fellow prisoners released last night.

Tianwang Human Rights Centre, run by veteran activist Huang Qi, quoted a Zhejiang petitioner and eyewitness as saying that the number of prisoners released could be 40,000 to 50,000.

The numbers were quickly questioned, and Tianwang subsequently issued an apology for its erroneous report:

Li Wei: Jiujingzhuan doesn’t have 70,000 petitioners. Huang Qi [head of Tianwang]: Tianwang sincerely accepts supervision, and has corrected our error. Thank you everyone for your concern.

On Wednesday, Peter Ford of the Christian Science Monitor visited the Jiujingzhuan Relief Service Center and found that the center experienced nothing more than a routine release of up to 300 people who had been held there.

“Black jails” are routinely used to detain people who travel to Beijing from other cities to petition the central government over their grievances. Another recent report in the Chinese media claimed that a Beijing court sentenced officials to jail for holding citizens in black jails, but the reports were quickly denied by the government and were retracted. Read more about “black jails” via CDT.


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