Although the notorious labor camp system in China has effectively been shut down in most parts of the country, the extralegal detention and torture of large numbers of Chinese citizens has not ended.
One of the new, legally dubious, facilities that has cropped up for those deemed by the Chinese Communist Party to be anti-social elements—such as elderly people who petition the government after their houses are demolished—are called “disciplinary centers.”
The full name of one of the facilities exposed on the Internet recently was “The Education and Discipline Center for Abnormal Petitioning.” It was located in Wolong District, Nanyang City, in Henan Province, central China.
Petitioning refers to seeking out higher-level authorities to resolve injustices perpetrated by officials at lower levels, which the judicial system has been unable or unwilling to correct.
“It’s a new style of labor camp,” said Yang Jinfen, an Internet user who posted a photograph of the facility in Nanyang. “It illegally detains petitioners. My mom Zhang Fengmei who’s nearly 70 years old, has been detained there since Feb. 4 without any legal procedure …”
The picture and message was first put onto Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and then deleted.
Yang said her mother was first locked away there for 10 days in January.
“They detained my mom in a very small room without a bed,” she said to Epoch Times in a telephone interview. “They just gave her a blanket and let her sleep on the floor. They detain you as long as they want. It’s the same with the labor camp and black jail. The local government officials are just like rogues.”
Local Communist Party cadres respond to the incentives and disincentives set by those higher up in the system.
“The local government is afraid that if my mom goes to Beijing to petition, it will reflect badly on their political achievements,” Yang said. “So they just detain her.”
Zhang Fengmei, the mother, is calling for justice for her son, who was tortured into disability during a prison sentence. The son, Yang Jinde, was an entrepreneur who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010 for six crimes including “leading a criminal syndicate” and “disturbing social order.” The criminal justice system in China is often prone to corruption and, many Chinese complain of unfair judgments.
Rather than investigate the torture of her son, authorities in Henan simply locked up the mother.
Inside the disciplinary centers, petitioners are said to be under “24-hour nonstop discipline, warnings, and educative persuasion,” according to a local government website.
But according to Xinhua, the state mouthpiece, an official at the State Bureau of Letters and Calls in Henan, the agency that is responsible for petitioners, admitted that the disciplinary centers “do not meet legal requirements.” The official did not disclose his name.
Yang Jinfen, whose mother is locked up, said, “My mom just wants her son healthy.”