A Beijing court has sentenced 10 men for illegally keeping petitioners in secret detention centers. The men, all from Henan province, were given sentences of between six months and two years in prison.
The unofficial detention centers are commonly known as "black jails". The court decision on Tuesday is a surprising acknowledgement that these illegal detention facilities exist.
China's central authorities have previously denied "black jails" exist in the country. That's despite widespread accounts by petitioners who say their attempts to air grievances in Beijing are often cut short.
Individuals known as interceptors are dispatched by local governments around the country. Their task is to stop petitioners from complaining to Beijing authorities. That's because local bureaucrats are penalized for each petitioner that gets to the central appeals office in Beijing.
In 2011, Beijing's Municipal Public Security Bureau supposedly started a campaign to "crack down" on Black Jails. This was one of the first instances that state media reported that Black Jails exist.
Many petitioners report physical abuse during their detention, including beatings, rape and sometimes death.
In today's court ruling, the men were found guilty of detained 11 petitioners last May, also from Henan Province. They were also ordered to compensate the petitioners they detained illegally detained for several days.
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