November 12, 2009

II. Background

The petition system seems to have maintained hope for disadvantaged people who have suffered injustices, but as a matter of fact, it is like drinking poison to quench a thirst.
-Peking University law professor He Weifang [2]

China's Broken Petitioning System

The recent appearance of black jails is the product of systemic failures in China's "letters and visits," or petitioning, system.

The petitioning system is a modern version of an imperial tradition which legally permits Chinese citizens to report local official abuses or local legal decisions to higher levels of government.[3] Because local courts regularly refuse to accept cases against local officials, and because pursuing legal redress through the court system can be prohibitively expensive, particularly for rural Chinese, petitioning has become one of the only accessible means of legal redress.

Petitioners typically begin their pursuit of legal redress at local-level petitioner complaint offices, which are located in courthouses or in township-level government offices. If they are not satisfied, they can move up the government hierarchy to provincial level offices and, at the highest level, the State Bureau for Letters and Visits in Beijing.[4]

The Chinese government has over the past five years reiterated its support for the petitioning system, describing it as an indispensable means to ease the frustrations of citizens who are unable for whatever reason to resolve their legal problems at the local level. In March 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao praised the petitioning system as a "mechanism to resolve social conflicts, and guide the public to express their requests and interests through legal channels."[5] Yu Lingyu, director of the Supreme Court's Bureau of Implementation, in July 2009 described the petitioning system as "work which is done to allay the anxiety and relieve the difficulties of the masses and the basic work of establishing a socialist and harmonious society."[6]

The State Bureau for Letters and Visits has reported a steady increase in petitions since 1993, saying the numbers are "straining the national (petitioning) system."[7] Official Chinese government statistics indicate that petition offices annually handled around 10 million inquiries and complaints from petitioners from 2003 to 2007.[8] Despite its longevity and political support, the petitioning system has never functioned effectively, in large part because it is chronically overwhelmed by the number of people seeking redress.[9] In a 2004 Chinese Academy of Social Sciences survey of a sample of 632 petitioners in Beijing by Yu Jianrong, "信访制度批判"  (Critique of the Petition System), revealed that only 0.2 percent of them successfully resolved their problems through the petition system.[10]

Petitioners who have petitioned several years to tens of years are not rare. One reason is due to government departments who are evasive and prolong matters; another is because the petitioning system inherently has limitations to its power. The channels for petitioning are obstructed; the problems of petitioners are transferred, not handled, the rate of effectiveness is very low.[11]

As a result, large numbers of petitioners who come to Beijing remain there for long periods of time, hoping their grievances will be resolved. But their very presence collides with central government directives that local governments reduce the flow of petitioners to Beijing.

An academic article by Yu Jianrong suggests that the central government, fearing petitioners' potential to instigate unrest and disliking "undesirables" on the capital's streets, has made controlling the flow of petitioners to the capital one of the basic metrics of the effectiveness of regional and local officials.[12] Penalties for exceeding those limits range from private reprimands to humiliating and potentially career-ending public criticisms.[13]

The Chinese government has never publicly circulated details of this system of bureaucratic reprisals against local government officials deemed responsible for allowing petitioners to reach or remain in Beijing. However, Chinese Human Rights Defenders has obtained several internal county-level government documents which make clear that penalties are levied against local officials who fail to take decisive action when petitioners from their geographical area seek legal redress in provincial capitals and Beijing. The extent of the penalties hinge upon a "point deduction" system used in official performance evaluations of local officials.[14] One document is a 2007 directive from Hunan province's Shimen County specifying the obligation of county officials to retrieve local petitioners who go to Hunan's capital or Beijing:

Regarding those who go to petition at the provincial capital or to Beijing and those who persistently petition unreasonably, if they are returned to the county and sent to law learning classes in a timely manner...add two points [to the evaluation of the relevant official]. Failure to implement this, deduct half-a-point.[15]

According to one legal expert in Beijing, "Petitioners are bad for [local] government officials [because] officials' positions, career prospects and salaries are all linked to the number of petitioners coming to Beijing, so they want to control them."[16]

The result is that petitioners to Beijing are routinely intercepted, harassed, and detained by government officials and security forces from their home areas intent on ensuring that petitioners are not detected seeking legal redress in Beijing or other major cities. Such abuses constitute serious violations of guarantees of freedoms of expression and association embodied in both international and Chinese law.[17] The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, the People's Daily, has itself reported the occurrence of "local governments using violent means to intercept petitioners from reaching higher levels of government."[18] Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications law professor Xu Zhiyong has compared the plight of China's petitioners to "...an alleyway in hell; with so much naked savagery and violence. It gives us a concentrated glimpse of all the sicknesses in Chinese society."[19] In an academic paper published in April 2009, Yu Jianrong described the relationship between petitioners and their local governments as inherently conflicted:

[L]ocal governments are not resolving problems but instead are intercepting petitioners, de-registering petitions, detaining people, charging fines, employing re-education through labor and criminal punishments, punishing family members, and using other control tactics to suppress petitioners.[20]

In August 2009, the Chinese government announced regulatory moves aimed to prevent any petitioners who have already initiated legal proceedings for redress in local courts from also petitioning in Beijing, an initiative which will likely intensify extrajudicial measures to abduct and detain petitioners who come to Beijing regardless. On August 6, 2009, Zhou Benshun, secretary general of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC) of the Communist Party's Central Committee, urged local governments to redouble their efforts to address petitioners' concerns at the county and village levels as a means to ensure that "[Petitioners'] problems can be solved without coming to Beijing."[21] On August 19, 2009, the PLAC reiterated that message by announcing that the yet-to-be-published regulations are designed to ensure that petitioners should "not seek solutions by visiting Beijing" and task local government officials with weekly and monthly meetings with petitioners at the grassroots level to resolve petitioners' grievances.[22]

The Abolition of Legal "custody and repatriation" and the Emergence of China's Black Jails

There are convincing indications that a key reason for the emergence of China's extrajudicial system of black jails was the abolition of the compulsory custody-and-repatriation, or shourong qiansong, system in 2003. Shourong, a form of vagrancy detention enacted by the State Council in 1982, gave municipal police wide powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain any "undesirables" on city streets, particularly homeless people and beggars who had come from the rural countryside.[23] Under these regulations, police could detain any citizen who lacked an urban household registration certificate, or hukou, which by definition included any petitioners from the countryside.[24] The shourong vagrancy detention system involved a nationwide network of 700 official detention centers where police could arbitrarily detain any "undesirables" and then repatriate them to their home provinces.[25]

The lack of due process within this vagrancy detention system led to detainee abuse and human rights violations. In March 2003, Sun Zhigang, a migrant worker detained by police in Guangzhou for not carrying his temporary urban residence certificate, was beaten to death in a shourong center. Intense domestic public dismay followed,[26] and in June 2003 the government unexpectedly announced the abolition of the vagrancy detention system. Facilities were closed, and the police no longer had the power to arbitrarily detain "undesirables."[27] The Chinese government officially replaced the vagrancy detention system with the Measures on Aid and Management for Urban Homeless and Beggars (MAMUHB) on August 1, 2003.[28] The Chinese government described the MAMUHB as a system designed to "provide temporary shelter for the homeless in a bid to maintain social order in cities."[29] That system hinges on specially-built shelters in which urban homeless can seek, on a strictly voluntary basis, temporary shelter for a maximum of ten days.[30]

Some Chinese police accustomed to the wide powers of detention granted by the former vagrancy detentionsystem expressed concern in the wake of its abolition. "In the past, we had more power and that made our work easier. The custody and repatriation system (was) a very good measure for big cities," a police officer in the southern city of Guangzhou told the South China Morning Post in October, 2003.[31]

But vagrancy detention-era abuses did not end with the abolition of shourong. Instead, such abuses have been driven underground into new extrajudicial "black jails" in Beijing and other cities. Local government officials, security forces, and the thugs they hire use such facilities to keep individuals officially deemed as "undesirables," such as petitioners, off the streets of Beijing and in many cases back to their home provinces to spare local officials bureaucratic punishment for allowing petitioners to come to the capital.

China's Black Jails System

The Chinese government has a history of extralegal detention. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), government officials and security forces routinely detained individuals suspected of anti-government sentiments in facilities described as "study classes," or xuexi ban, without formal arrest, trial, or due process of law.[32] The Chinese government also has a record of targeting "whistleblowers and exposers of official corruption, persistent complainants and petitioners" for extralegal detention in mental institutions.[33] Since the 1980s, extralegal detention measures by government officials and security forces have targeted violators of China's official one-child policy as well as followers of the outlawed Falungong movement.[34]

China's police also have legal powers to routinely impose administrative detention via "re-education through labor," or laojiao, and house arrest, or ruanjin. Re-education through labor allows the police to unilaterally impose custodial sentences of up to three years while depriving detainees of any due process of law and judicial oversight.[35] House arrest, which Chinese police can impose completely arbitrarily and outside of any legal procedure, results in detention at home, with restricted and monitored internet and phone communications, and 24-hour surveillance by unidentified and often aggressive security forces.[36]

Chinese legal scholars and academics who have researched black jails say that their emergence since 2003 constitutes one of the most serious and widespread uses of extralegal detention in China's recent history. A Chinese legal expert who has extensively researched the issue of black jails estimates that the number of incidents in which citizens are illegally detained each year in black jails in Beijing alone is as high as 10,000, though that number includes individuals who are detained on multiple occasions.[37] Various non-governmental sources have estimated the number of black jails at between 7[38] and 50.[39] Tracking black jails is difficult due to the secretive nature of their operations and the fact that many appear to operate on a temporary, "as needed" basis in response to abductions. An Al Jazeera television correspondent visited a Beijing black jail facility in April 2009 with a former detainee, only to find the location empty and unguarded for reasons unknown.[40]

Xu Zhiyong, the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications law professor quoted above, is one of a small number of local activists seeking to expose and abolish the black jail system. He described his impressions of the Beijing facility he visited in September 2008:

It is not an exaggeration to call it a black jail. There were several scores of petitioners imprisoned here. The government had hired thugs as guards. Thedifference between this [black jail] and a regular prison is that the petitioners in this prison are completely innocent. They were brought here without any legal process to be locked up when they went to the complaints departments such as at the Bureau of Letters and Visits or the Supreme Court in order to conduct regular petitioning.[41]

Local government officials often employ those agents, plainclothes thugs commonly known as retrievers, or jiefang renyuan, to locate and abduct petitioners in Beijing and other cities. Experienced retrievers are paid well for their services, including bounties as high as U$250 per person.[42]

Retrievers often recognize their province's most dogged petitioners on sight. Since petitioners are paid only to bring back people from their own provinces, a common tactic is to ask petitioners where they're from. Even if they lie, their accents will probably give them away. Sometimes retrievers don shabby clothes and pose as petitioners. Retrievers often bribe [petitioning office] clerks...to prevent petitioners' gripes from being processed.[43]

Black jail operators themselves extract substantial financial rewards from local governments in return for providing the facilities to detain petitioners from their respective areas. "[A black jail operator] charges the respective local governments or their liaison offices in Beijing 300 yuan (US$44) per petitioner to 200 yuan (US$29) for each day of detention plus other miscellaneous fees like medical fees."[44] Xu Zhiyong has uncovered a sliding scale of payments by local governments to black jail operators in Beijing. "If a city petitioner is locked up for one day, the local government pays 200 yuan (US$29), for rural petitioners one day (costs) 150 yuan (US$22)."[45]

Investigative reporting by both local and foreign correspondents indicate that some black jail operators are also requiring detainees to pay for their release and/or the costs of their own detention. A China Youth Daily reporter interviewed a former black jail detainee from Jiangsu province who said his chief jailer told him, "Give a 10,000 yuan (US$1,470) deposit, write an affidavit that you won't petition again then (add to that) a food fee of 200 yuan (US$29) per day. Then you can go!"[46] In September 2007, a Reuters correspondent stumbled upon a black jail in Beijing operated by officials from Henan province's Nanyang municipality, which had become a de facto detention outsourcing center for local governments from other parts of China.[47]

The novelty of the Nanyang operation appears to be turning detention into a commercial service, with other local governments paying it to catch and hold protesting residents. The eight petitioners from east and northeast China separately said they had been lured or dragged from streets, government offices and a state-run detention center to the jail. Petitioners said they believed from guards' comments that the jail charged other local governments from 200 yuan (US$29) to 300 yuan (US$44) a day to hold them until they were taken home, sometimes released on the spot, or dumped outside the city.[48]

There have been numerous reports by both foreign media and domestic human rights organizations of large numbers of petitioners routinely detained in the Beijing Financial Assistance Management Center.[49] This facility, commonly referred to as Majialou, is in the city's southern Fengtai district, near numerous central government petitioning offices including that of the Supreme Court of China. Majialou is one of Beijing's four official homeless relief centers established by the post-vagrancy detention system, as set forth in Measures on Aid and Management for Urban Homeless and Beggars described above.[50] But according to research conducted by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, it has become a location where petitioners "...are registered and detained before officials there notify interceptors from their local areas, who then take the petitioners away and forcibly escort them back to their home provinces."[51]

Secret Facilities, Spartan Conditions

Black jail facilities are often temporary; the number in operation at any given time is dependent on the number of detained petitioners. Former black jail detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch have described black jails in government ministry buildings, hotels, hostels, nursing homes, mental hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, and residential buildings, among others. Black jails are unmarked and their purpose usually undetectable to passers-by. One detainee told us, "[The black jail] was in a simple bungalow, which from the outside wouldn't raise an eyebrow and people wouldn't notice [as distinct in any way]."[52]  

The facilities share several key characteristics: they are organized to severely restrict detainees' freedom of movement, association, and expression through locked doors, locked and barred windows, restrictions on access to phones and other communications, and 24-hour surveillance by guards armed with weapons, including clubs and guns.[53] A local human rights group has described the facilities in detail:

A Black house will often be located behind, under or in an operating hotel, inn, or hostel and as part of a city's or province's petition office in Beijing. The Black house, managed by Letters and Visits officials [from the provinces] working in Beijing, will then hire people to work as guards, and pay the hotel, hostel or inn a small price for the use of the specific part of the establishment. A part of the location will consist of a prison area; using rooms as holding cells, often equipped with iron bars and doors, and will sometimes also have a fenced-in outdoor area. A second part [of the facility] will hold offices for the guards and retrievers, and sometimes an area where newly-arrived inmates will be stripped of their ID cards, cell phones, etc. In the vast majority of cases, a black jail will handle petitioners from one specific location, such as a city or province. This is due to the fact that black jails are operated and paid for by the Letters and Visits office of that particular location. Hence, the petition offices in provincial capital X will, to ensure that petitioners do not "escape" from the provincial chain of petitioning by going to Beijing, set up an "office" in Beijing. This office, a black jail, will then send 'retrievers' out to watch train stations, petition offices, shelters and other areas known to be frequented by petitioners. When a petitioner from their locality is found, he or she will be apprehended and brought back to the black jail for detention.[54]

The majority of former black jail detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch described conditions in those facilities as akin to a prison in terms of security measures and denial of freedom of movement. "[There were] locked steel doors and windows. We never left our rooms to eat, [instead] we were given our meals through a small window space," said a 53-year-old petitioner from Heilongjiang province who was abducted while petitioning in Beijing and was subsequently detained in a black jail facility in a government building in his home town for the month of October 2007.[55]

Sleeping facilities range from separate, locked hotel rooms for each individual detainee[56] to cramped conditions in which petitioners share rooms of up to eight bunk beds.[57] One petitioner spent eight days in a Beijing black jail located in a Jilin provincial government facility devoid of furniture, where detainees had to sit and sleep on the bare floors.[58]

Police Complicity

The Beijing municipal police have played an active role in abuses against petitioners in the capital, including "turning a blind eye to the retaliatory violence" meted out to petitioners by plainclothes thugs who appear to operate at official behest.[59] Two of the 38 former black jail detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that Beijing police, in one incident in plainclothes[60] and in the second incident in uniform,[61] assisted provincial-level security forces in abducting and detaining the petitioners in Beijing.

Such police indifference to the plight of black jail detainees is common, according to a Beijing-based legal expert who has researched the problem of black jails.

Local police don't help. Local government officials often have relationships with the Beijing police, so Beijing police don't interfere [in black jail operations]. Police see petitioners as "disrupting stability" and also [refuse to act] due to jurisdictional issues; they leave [petitioners in black jails] to the local government officials.[62]

A former detainee from Jiangsu province told Human Rights Watch that municipal police showed up at the black jail facility located in a Beijing hotel where he was held and "made a report," but then departed without explanation and without freeing him from custody.[63] Another former detainee said that Beijing police did not respond to his "110" calls for assistance after he was detained by Heilongjiang petitioning officials in a black jail facility in a central Beijing building.[64] A woman from Heilongjiang province detained in a Ministry of Social Affairs building in her home province said that when she contacted police for assistance, they candidly explained that they had no power to intervene in cases of black jail detentions.

[Your detention] is the desire of upper levels [of government], and if you have opinions about that when this is over, consult the city government authorities or the mayor to solve. Anything that happens inside [black jails] we can't go to investigate and [we] can't solve any of your problems.[65]

There is also evidence that Beijing police work closely with retrievers ahead of important dates on the Chinese Communist Party's calendar, such as the run-up to annual meetings of China's parliament.[66] At those times, police in the provinces prioritize preventing petitioners from reaching Beijing,[67] while the Ministry of Public Security urges Beijing municipal police to "mobilize all of their resources" to prevent petitioners already in the city from reaching central government offices.[68] The Chinese government explicitly linked an initiative announced in August 2009 to improve resolution of petitioners' grievances at the village and county levels to efforts to prevent petitioners from coming to Beijing where they might disturb "social harmony and stability ahead of China's National Day celebration in October (2009)."[69]

Black Jails as "Study Classes"

The local and provincial government officials and members of the security forces who operate black jails have in some cases described what goes on in the facilities as "study classes" devoted to educating petitioners about their alleged wrongdoing. Zhang Jianping, a Jiangsu human rights activist, described this justification as emblematic of the lack of rule of law in China. "These black jails are clearly against the law. But local officials call them legal study classes, and that shows how they treat the law as just a tool for abusing rights," Zhang said.[70]

A March 2009 investigative report in the China Youth Daily uncovered how government officials and security forces from Jiangsu province's Xiang Shui County had abducted local petitioners in Beijing, returned them under guard to Xiang Shui, and imprisoned them in a black jail which the county's Civil Affairs Bureau described as a "Petitioning Study Class."[71] The report revealed that at least ten local petitioners had been detained in the facility, located within an abandoned primary school, and subjected to threats, intimidation, and physical violence until they paid a 10,000 yuan (US$1,471) "deposit" and a "food fee" of 200 yuan (US$29) per day. They were prevented from leaving until they signed an affidavit stating that they would never petition again.[72]

Three former black jail detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their abductors had justified detaining them on the basis of an alleged legal obligation to undertake petitioning-related "study classes," while ten others said that their captors described their black jail as a "study class" facility only after their arrival at the facility. Several interviewees dismissed the "study class" label as a cynical veneer of legitimacy. A female petitioner from Jiangsu province detained in a black jail for 36 days in July-August 2008 said the "study class" label her guards used to refer to the facility was an attempt to ensure the black jail "wouldn't look illegal."[73]

Another woman detained in a self-styled "study class" in Heilongjiang province described her experience: "They said it was a petitioning school, but I never saw a teacher there, all I ever saw were police and flies."[74] Several other former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they were forced to sign affidavits upon release from black jail facilities which stated that they had not been detained, but had instead participated in a "study class" of their own free will.[75] Other former detainees described attempts by their black jail guards to lead "study classes" which consisted of anti-petitioning propaganda sessions.

They called it "legal education"...to allow petitioners to be regarded as criminals. There was no class...it was a joke. However, they sometimes did ideology work with petitioners and urged them not to come back to Beijing to petition, [but instead] go back home to seek out their local government to solve their problems.[76]

[2]  "Judicial independence should come first," Beijing Review, November 15, 2005, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-11/15/content_494790.htm (accessed August 11, 2009).

[3] According to one official survey, 40 percent were about actions of the police, courts, and prosecutors' offices, 33 percent about the Chinese government, 13 percent about official corruption, and 11 percent about alleged injustice.  See "Amendment to regulation on petitions passed in principle," Xinhua News Agency, January 6, 2005, http://english.people.com.cn/200501/06/print20050106_169769.html (accessed July 8, 2009).

[4] Li Li, "Life in a Struggle," Beijing Review, May 4, 2005, http://www.bjreview.cn/EN/En-2005/05-45-e/china-1.htm; and Jonathan K. Ocko, "I'll take it all the way to Beijing: Capital appeals in the Qing," Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 47.2 (May 1988), p.294.

[5]  "Wen tells leaders to handle petitioners personally," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), March 6, 2009.

[6]"执行信访案件居高不下最高法出台意见力克顽疾," 法制日报("Carrying out petitioning cases at the higher level – the SPC issues opinions to overcome the chronic disease," Legal Daily), (Beijing) July 27, 2009, http://www.legaldaily.com.cn/2007shyf/2009-07/27/content_1129078.htm (accessed August 10, 2009).

[7] Li Li, "Life in a Struggle," Beijing Review.

[8] Li Huizi and Zhou Erjie, "China's public complaint department busiest office in Beijing," Xinhua News Agency, September 2, 2007, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-09/02/content_6142475.htm (accessed August 11, 2009).

[9] The petitioning system collapsed in the Qing Dynasty period. The volume of petitioners overwhelmed the government's capacity to effectively resolve their problems. Carl F. Minzner, "Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System," Stanford Journal of International Law, vol. 42:1 (2006).

[10]  Li Li, "Life in a Struggle," Beijing Review.

[11]杜文娟, "信访务烈通信访路," 人民日报(Du Wenjuan, "New Petition Regulations Clear the Road to Petition," People's Daily),  (Beijing), January 26, 2005, http://legal.people.com.cn/GB/42731/3145068.html  (accessed July 10, 2009).

[12]于建嵘, "信访悖论"及其出路, 新华月报(Yu Jianrong, " The 'Petitioners' Dilemma' and the Way Out," Xinhua Monthly ), (Beijing),April 9, 2009, http://cn.qikan.com/Article/xhyt/xhyt200905/xhyt20090506.html (accessed August 10, 2009).

[13]  于建嵘,"谁在承受截访的成本?" 凤凰周刊(Yu Jianrong, "Who bears the cost of intercepting petitioners?" Phoenix Weekly), (Beijing), July 15, 2008, http://blog.ifeng.com/article/1578646.html  (accessed on August 9, 2009).

[14] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, "Silencing Complaints: Human Rights Abuses against Petitioners in China," CHRD Index 1009, March 14, 2008, http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class11/200803/20080314221750_8056_4.html (accessed on October 17, 2009).

[15]  Ibid.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name withheld), Beijing, April 2009.

[17]The right of Chinese citizens to petition their government for legal redress is embodied in both international law and several key Chinese legal documents.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which China pledges to support by virtue of its UN membership,  protects many of the rights entailed in petitioning, including freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, rights also protected by International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China's article 35 guarantees "freedom of speech…of association, of procession and demonstration," while article 41 of the Constitution guarantees the rights of Chinese citizens "to make to relevant state organs complaints and charges." The rights of petitioners are explicitly addressed in the Regulations on Letters and Visits implemented on May 1, 2005. Article 1 of those regulations explicitly allow "citizens, legal persons or other organizations (to) give information, make comments or suggestions or lodge complaintsto the people's governments at all levels and the relevant departments of the people's government at or above the county level through correspondence, E-mails, faxes, phone calls, visits and so on which are dealt with the relevant administrative departments according to law." The first National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), issued on April 13, 2009, reiterates the Chinese government's commitment to the petitioning system and petitioners' rights and moots new measures for petitioners to access government officials including special telephone lines and online complaint mechanisms "so as to safeguard the people's legitimate rights and interests."

[18]杜文娟, "信访务烈通信访路," 人民日报(Du Wenjuan, "New Petition Regulations Clear the Road to Petition,"People's Daily), (Beijing) January 26, 2005, http://legal.people.com.cn/GB/42731/3145068.html  (accessed July 10, 2009).

[19] Jamil Anderlini, "Punished Supplicants," Financial Times, March 5, 2009.

[20]于建嵘, "信访悖论"及其出路, 新华月报(Yu Jianrong, "The 'Petitioners' Dilemma' and the Way Out," Xinhua Monthly),  (Beijing),April 9, 2009, http://cn.qikan.com/Article/xhyt/xhyt200905/xhyt20090506.html (accessed August 10, 2009).

[21] "Official urges careful handling of public complaints at grass roots," Xinhua News Agency, August 6, 2009.

[22] Loretta Chao, "Beijing puts limits on petitioners," Wall Street Journal Asia (Beijing), August 25, 2009.

[23] "Four shelters open but receive few homeless on first day," Xinhua News Agency, August 1, 2003.

[24] The hukou system, which remains in force, has traditionally imposed stringent controls on the movements of rural residents to urban areas, and continues to constitute a discriminatory barrier to rural residents' access to employment opportunities and social welfare granted to those in possession of an urban hukou.  International Labor Organization, Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenges. Global Report under the Follow-up of the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (Geneva: ILO 2007), www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/--dcomm/--webdev/documents/publication/wcms_082607.pdf, pp 34-35.

[25] Phillip P. Pan, "In China, Editor Triumphs, and Fails," The Washington Post, August 3, 2004.

[26] "Kinder China to provide shelter for vagrants," Reuters, June 23, 2003.

[27] "Beijing Builds Shelters for Homeless," People's Daily, (Beijing), August 1, 2003, http://english.people.com.cn/200308/01/eng20030801_121458.shtml (accessed on October 18, 2009).

[28]  Ibid.

[29]  Ibid.

[30]  Ibid.

[31] Leu Siew Ying, "Guangzhou police rue passive role on migrants," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), October 8, 2009.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name withheld), Beijing, April 2009.

[33] Robin Munro, China's Psychiatric Institution: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China," (London:  Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing), 2006, p.17.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name withheld), Beijing, April 2009.

[35] "China: Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion and Belief," Human Rights Watch news release, July 20, 2005, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2005/07/20/freedom-thought-conscience-religion-and-belief.

[36] Brad Adams (Human Rights Watch), "Hard Facts on 'Soft Arrests" in China," commentary, The Wall Street Journal Asia, May 24, 2007, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/05/24/hard-facts-soft-arrests-china.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name withheld), Beijing, April 2009.

[38] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, "Black Jails" in the host city of the "Open Olympics," CHRD Index: 607, September 21, 2007, http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class11/200709/20070921161949_5739.html (accessed August 12, 2009).

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name withheld), Beijing, April 2009.

[40] Melissa Chan, "Screams for help at China's black jails," video report, Al Jazeera English, April 27, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxN4-A1G5zc (accessed August 11, 2009).

[41]许志永, "探访京城黑监狱"(二)(Xu Zhiyong , "Vistiting a Beijing Black Jail II"), post to 许志永的博客 (Xu Zhiyong's blog), Sept 25, 2008, http://blog.yam.com/xuzhiyong/article/23138994  (accessed on August 1, 2009).

[42] Mark Magnier, "Justice seekers must evade capture," Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2007.

[43]  Ibid.

[44] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, "Black Jails" in the host city of the "Open Olympics," CHRD Index: 607, September 21, 2007, http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class11/200709/20070921161949_5739.html (accessed August 12, 2009).

[45]许志永,  "探访京城黑监狱"5 (Xu Zhiyong, "Visiting a Beijing Black Jail V"), post to 许志永的博客 (Xu Zhiyong's blog), November 2, 2008, http://blog.yam.com/xuzhiyong/article/23138994 (accessed on August 1, 2009).

[46]李润文, "上访者被强行抓进学习班," 中国青年报(Li Runwen, "Petitioners  forcibly arrested and entered into study classes, "China Youth Daily),  (Beijing), March 30, 2009, http://news.china.com/zh_cn/social/1007/20090330/15405268.html (accessed August 8, 2009).

[47] Chris Buckley, "EXCLUSIVE – Secret Chinese jail makes silencing protest a business," Reuters, September 10, 2007.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Bill Allan, "Beijing's hidden dissenters." Sunday Herald (Edinburgh), August 2, 2008.

[50] "Four shelters open but receive few homeless on first day," Xinhua News Agency, August 1, 2003.

[51]  Chinese Human Rights Defenders, "Black Jails" in the host city of the "Open Olympics," CHRD Index: 607, September 21, 2007, http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class11/200709/20070921161949_5739.html (accessed August 12, 2009).

[52]  Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Jilin province, April 29, 2009.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Anhui province, April 26, 2009.

[54] (A Chinese human rights group, name withheld at its request), "A Briefing on 'Black Houses," January 30, 2009.

[55]  Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Heilongjiang province, April 26, 2009.

[56]  Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Hubei province, April 24, 2009.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Heilongjiang province, April 23, 2009.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Jilin province, April 29, 2009.

[59]  Human Rights Watch, "We Could Disappear at Any Time: Retaliation and Abuses against Chinese Petitioners," vol. 17, no.11, December 2005, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/china1205/ (accessed August 28, 2009).

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Hubei province, April 23, 2009.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Zhejiang province, April 24, 2009.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based legal expert (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Beijing, April 2009. (tb)

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Jiangsu province, April 26, 2009.

[64]  Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Heilongjiang province, April 20, 2009.

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Heilongjiang province, April 29, 2009.

[66]  Mark Magnier, "Justice seekers must evade capture," Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2007.

[67] Ivan Zhai, "Hard road to Beijing for NPC petitioners," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), March 5, 2009.

[68] Minnie Chan, "Crackdown to fuel resentment," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), August 17, 2007.

[69]  "把解决问题放在首位实现信访形势明显好转,"法制日报 ("Prioritizing a solution to the problem of petitioners has resulted in noticeable improvements in the situation,"Legal Daily) (Beijing), August 7, 2009, http://www.legaldaily.com.cn/bm/2009-08/07/content_1134667.htm (accessed August 28, 2009).

[70] Chris Buckley, "China human rights record stirs struggle at home," Reuters, February 8, 2009.

[71]李润文, "上访者被强行抓进学习班," 中国青年报(Li Runwen, "Petitioners  forcibly arrested and entered into study classes," China Youth Daily),  (Beijing), March 30, 2009, http://news.china.com/zh_cn/social/1007/20090330/15405268.html (accessed August 8, 2009).

[72] Ibid.

[73]  Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Jiangsu province, April 2009.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Heilongjiang province, April 23, 2009.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Sichuan province, April 28, 2009.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with a former black jail detainee (name and details withheld by Human Rights Watch), Jilin province, April 29, 2009.