A Day in the Life of a Beijing ‘Black Guard’

While Chinese citizens are legally entitled to present grievances to the central government in Beijing, their efforts are often thwarted by unofficial security guards employed by local authorities to stop them. At Caixin, Lan Fang and Ren Zhongyuan present a former interceptor’s account of the mechanics of his trade, and his decision to quit.

In the beginning, Wang was satisfied with his work. “It was relaxed and I had some freedom,” he said. […] Often he felt honored for “being of service to the government.”

“Leaders,” the local governments’ Beijing staffers, explained to him that it was only proper that these Beijing-bound petitioners, who were either bypassing the official system or making illegal petitions, be sent home.

But as he had more contact with the petitioners, Wang’s views changed. “Over 70 percent of them just had grievances to make,” Wang said.

[…] On March 8, Wang left Beijing with the last of his pay in hand. That was a busy day for Wang’s colleagues because it was the start of the annual National People’s Congress. Thousands of black guards were sitting on folding chairs along a street, patiently watching for petitioners. On the streets of the capital, the cat-and-mouse game between petitioners and black guards continued to play out.

See also an Economic Observer profile of two other Beijing-based interceptors; a recent Economist report on the capital’s detention centers and black jails; an overview of China’s stability maintenance machinery from the Dui Hua Foundation; and scholar Yu Jianrong’s critique of the government’s fixation on ‘rigid stability’, via CDT. In February, a Beijing court sentenced ten people to prison sentences for illegally detaining petitioners, but whether this was a sign of broader change remains unclear.

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