By Chris Buckley
Published: February 9, 2009
尽管中国g cd 对异议者审查和压制，但对权利要求声势在这个日益多样化、浮躁的社会越来越浩大。
BEIJING (Reuters) – China defends its handling of human rights under the glare of international scrutiny this week, while homegrown activists are waging their own scrappier battle over secretive detentions in the nation's capital.
A meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council starting in Geneva on Monday gives groups and governments a chance to press Beijing on secretive executions and jailed dissidents as well as labor camps and other forms of detention.
Yet contention over China's restrictions on its citizens is not confined to international conference rooms. Activists at home have also been galvanized, most recently against what locals call "black jails" -- detention centers holding protesters without official procedures or right to appeal.
"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," said Zhang Jianping, an activist in eastern Jiangsu province who runs a website focused on grassroots rights issues.
Despite the ruling Communist Party's censorship and crackdowns on dissent, demands for rights are spreading throughout this increasingly diverse and fractious society.
Some rights advocates said the detentions should be a top issue at the three-day U.N. "universal periodic review" of China, which opens while some countries may be more focused on Beijing's potential role in reviving the global economy.
"In a sense, this is the biggest human rights issue, because it involves so many people, it's so widespread, and it's so lacking in legal justification," said Xu Zhiyong, a Beijing law lecturer and rights advocate who has organized "guerrilla" citizen rescues of detained petitioners.
"LAW EDUCATION CLASS"
Zheng Dajing, from central Hubei province, said the detention center he was held in was called a "law education class" on banners inside its small grounds. But there were no textbooks or lectures in the disused tobacco-buying station in his home county of Yunxi that he said became his jail for over a year.
"A banner inside said it was for us to learn about the legal system. But there was no study or law in there," said Zheng, a plump 46-year-old former bank clerk whose grievances snowballed from a row over home ownership.
"The guards spent all day playing mahjong and cards."
He was one of many tens of thousands of citizens who every year travel to Beijing to complain at government "petitions and appeals" offices promising to help settle citizens' grievances.
But few complaints are resolved and the petitioners' rancor and persistence often deepen. Local governments sometimes use police and hired thugs to lure, cajole or drag petitioners away from government offices, where their complaints may embarrass local leaders and stain their promotion prospects.
The aggrieved farmers, workers and pensioners are then held in the unadvertised detention centers, many on Beijing's southern outskirts and the backroads of other cities and towns. Zheng said he was hauled into one such "black jail" in the capital, driven back to one in his hometown and locked up until late last year.
"Local leaders want to protect themselves, so they try to hide us away, hide away our complaints," said Zheng.
His claims were echoed by eight petitioners interviewed by Reuters. They spoke of cramped, dank, sometimes violent holding yards or rooms, often run by bosses who charge local governments to keep inmates out of sight for days, weeks or months.
When called by Reuters, Yan Zhiping, the police chief of Yunxi, denied petitioners were detained there in a "law education" center and said they were all treated with "civility."
But three petitioners from Yunxi, found independently of Zheng, said they were also held in the one-time tobacco station.
"The police told me I was there to learn the law. But they're the ones who need to learn the law," said Yuan Rongbao, a middle-aged ex-soldier from Yunxi who said he was also held in the station for a week last year after going to Beijing to complain about the demolition of his home.
FIGHTING WITH VIDEO AND THE INTERNET
China says in its report to the U.N. meeting that it strictly limits detentions. A chorus of Chinese lawyers and activists disagrees, and now they are challenging the petitioner jails.
Since last year, Xu, the rights advocate, and an expanding team of volunteers have been descending unannounced on some of Beijing's dozen or more bigger petitioner jails, often kept down isolated byways, to demand the release of detainees.
In one recent raid, 30 clean-cut protesters waved copies of China's laws against unlawful jailing and aimed video cameras at startled guards. Accounts and footage of their protests have spread over the Internet, and with other critical reports they are raising pressure on officials, said Xu.
"The black jails are still there and are still totally illegal, but we think their violence has fallen and they don't beat us up like they did when we started," he said. Rattled officials have sometimes released petitioners, he added.
At peak times, such as during major political meetings, the larger "underground" detention centers in Beijing alone hold many hundreds, waiting to be shunted out of the capital, he estimated.