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China: Co-operation 2.0 on Beijing’s Black Jails

With the abolition of custody and repatriation (C&R) system in 2003, it seems the Chinese petitioners no longer have to worry about being detained as illegal residents when they leave for a strange city to petition a higher governmental institution. However, according to blogger Xu Zhiyong, a young professor of law and strong advocate for human rights, those supplicants are actually still being intercepted by the local officials from the way to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the Supreme People’s Court or other departments, and forcedly taken to some makeshift house of detention, being lock up without any legal process. As the places which confined the petitioners are always hidden among the ordinary buildings, people call them “Black Jails”.

In cooperation with citizen reporter Zhou Shuguang (Zola) and other two journalists Chen Er (Doubleaf) and Guo Jiannong, Xu Zhiyong, who firstly blogged Beijing’s black jails in the end of September, went to visit one of the unlawful prisons again on Monday, attacked by a group of thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities.

Xu introduced the background of the operation in his blog:



Yesterday I received an SMS, “This is Henan’s Ma Xirong, being confined with more than twenty people in the black jail behind the Youth Hotel on the Beijing Hufang road. Can you save us? Emergency!”. Because I was at class and tied up with my work at that moment, I promised to go there today. After the last SMS contact at about 11:00 am, making sure Ma was still there, I decided to start off at 4:00 pm.
I arranged with Zhou Shuguang and his two journalist friends to meet at the Youth Hotel. Three of us reached the door of black jail at 4:15 pm, leaving Zhou to shoot videos from a safe distance. Ma Xirong came to the window and asked to let her out, but the guard rejected her request while calling the Beijing Office of Henan Province. So she talked with us through the window, saying that she was questioned by the police while walking in Wangfujing Street. After finding her petition materials, the police arrested her and then locked her up in this place. When more and more petitioners assembled at the window, Ma Xirong was forced into the inner room by the guard and I could still hear she shouted, “I am a citizen. Who are you to stop me here?”

Doubleaf, a well-known blogger in China, from his unique angle promptly blogged the situation at that time :


Xu Zhiyong and Guo Jianlong at the gate of black jail


The alley where the black jail is located






就这样过了一个多小时,大概5点20左右,一辆牌号为京MG8490的面包车开进巷子,下来3、4个大汉,骂骂咧咧的揪住郭建龙问是干嘛的。郭说接人,一名大汉很不耐烦的说“接谁接谁”。没几句话之后,几名大汉开始动手打人,我们赶紧叫几十米外的zuola跑。这时,开始监视我们的打手也陆续过来了,一共在6、7人左右。开始在巷子另外一头监视我们的操北京口音的胖子打许志永最狠,一边打还 一边骂脏话,说“你丫不是律师嘛”。也许是因为刚来的时候主要是郭建龙和许志永与他们沟通、我基本不说话的缘故,他们没有打我,而我也有点吓蒙了,既没有逃跑,也没有动手反击,做了可耻的看客,连暴喝一声“住手”的勇气也没有。



坚持了一会,大约17:45左右, 我们要找的人终于在她家乡信访办官员的陪同下出来了。我赶紧和许志永、郭建龙一起往外走。在走到巷子拐弯处的时候,另外一名打人最狠的打手又冲出来,叫嚷着要开车把许志永撞死。许志永站在路中没动,我于是赶紧拉起他说人已经救出来了,我们快走吧。许志永对这帮打手说:我们还会再来的。

The black jail is actually a hostel named “Cozy Youth Hotel”, west to the Temple of Heaven, in a small alley on Taiping Street near Taoranting Park, where very few people pass by. The path fully covered by fallen leaves is so narrow that only one car can fit in. Looked from the outside, this dilapidated building has nothing to relate to the black jails, although more than 20 petitioners, all from Henan, are illegally imprisoned here. In fact, the hostel is rented by the Office for Letters and Calls of Henan Province, used especially to lock up the petitioners.
At the door of black jail, Guo Jianlong and Xu Zhiyong were responsible for communicating to the people inside while I was watching the outside circumstances. After a lengthy dispute, the person we wanted to meet finally came out, briefly talking with us behind a closed security door. The one we tried to save was a woman in her fifties, who was allegedly detained before getting a chance to petition.
Subsequently, an interception officer who pretended as a petitioner’s relative came to knock at the black jail’s door, but the guard inside didn’t let him in immediately because of our visit. We talked with him for a while, learning some information.
The man didn’t get in until 20 minutes later. Then we again had a short conversation with the person we wanted. I heard she was incessantly saying, “We are just talking”, which was assumed that someone inside was attempting to stop our dialog.
In the meantime, 3 or 4 strappers stared at us from the corner and the other side of the alley. Xu Zhiyong indicated they were the black jail’s thugs, one of which even passed us with a kid in his arms. According to Zola, that man had planned “holding the kid to kick them”. After that, we had a word with another female petitioner who professed to come here of “her own volition” through the window.
About one hour later, nearly 5:20 pm, a mini-bus with the license of “京 MG8490” drove into the alley, from which got off 3 or 4 big men. They abusively seized Guo Jianlong, asking why he was there. “To receive someone,” Guo replied. “Whom?! Whom?!” one of them impatiently shouted. Without surplus words, the big men started hitting us. We hastened to ask Zola staying tens of meters out run away. At the time, the thugs who watched us from the beginning came up one by one, about 6 or 7 in all. A fat guy of Beijing accent beat Xu Zhiyong the most brutally, while swearing, “You are the f*** lawyer, right?!” Maybe because it’s mainly Guo Jianlong and Xu Zhiyong that negotiated with them just now and I almost kept silent, they didn’t punch me. Even though, I was still a little scared. Without running off or fighting back, I acted as a shameful onlooker. I even got no courage to yell “stoppage”.
“Go to the police station. It’s very close,” those thugs provocatively said, while hitting and cursing. About 5 minutes later, they stopped, but we didn’t leave. “He is one of them,” one of the thugs pointed at me, though no one lifted hands against my face.
During the entire process, Xu Zhiyong and Guo Jianlong didn’t strike back in any way.
Around 17:45, the woman we expected finally came out of the jail, accompanied with the officer from the Office for Letters and Calls of her hometown. So Xu Yongzhi, Guo Jianlong and I quickly moved out of the alley. As we arrived at the corner, another brutal thug rushed into the way, threatening to bump Xu to death by car. Since Xu continued standing on the way, I hurried to draw him aside, saying, “The person has been saved. Let’s get out of here.” Xu Zhiyong then said to the thugs: “We will be back. “

Zola gave an outline of the whole thing and had more materials in his blog:



At noon of October 13,I published information in twitter, seeking for people who wanted to go to the black jail together. Doubleaf was on vacation and Guo Jianlong working at the Economy Report of 21 Century was also free, so we decided to meet before Youth Hotel at 4:00 pm. The plan was I watched and recorded at the intersection while the other three men went to the door to ask for the petitioner.
The following map shows our positions that I watch A where the other three men negotiate with the guards to ask for the petitioner from B where the gate of Beijing No. 62 High School is located. 可以看到我的零碎记录,我们约是四点半开始,五点半结束。一个小时里,黑监狱的看守没有采取行动,到五点二十左右,京M G8790 的小面包车进来,下来四五个人,开始打人。打人的录音在这里,是郭建龙和许志永以挨打为代价换来的现场录音。欢迎下载收听.

You may check my short records from We started at about 4:00 pm and finished at 5:30 pm. During the one-hour operation, the guards of the black jail didn’t take action until about 5:20 pm. Four or three men jumped out of a mini-bus with a number of “京MG8790”, and began to attack us. Here is the audio record which is at the great expense of Guo Jianlong and Xu Zhiyong. Welcome to download.


The following shot was taken when the conflict occurred. I only got a video for seconds in the distance, so it’s not clear enough.


The following picture was taken as we just reached the black jail. Guo Jianlong and Chen Er are talking on cell phones while Xu Zhiyong is knocking at the door.


This is my self-shot. To my west is the gate of No. 62 High School, the north is Xu Zhiyong group, the east is the side door of the Youth Hotel, where several thugs are gathered, and to my south also stands two men, who are unidentified.


The following picture was taken from the east. The three men are thugs, one of which holds a kid. I didn’t catch the most brutal men who rode bike to buy bears and then got drunk. He ripped off a button from Xu Yongzhi’s shirt while throttled Xu’s neck.


In the following picture, the black jacket says to the brown jacket, “Go and kick their ass.”

下面是10月5号去黑监狱的照片,从这次打人来看,后面的京M G8790 是黑监狱的车.

The following picture was taken during the visit to black jail on October 5. According to the conflict this time, the car of “京 MG8970” behind must belong to the black jail.

Besides the four men’s admirable courage and omni-directional blogging afterwards, another stunning knockout of the black jail operation is Doubleaf and Zola’s live report on the event by Twitter, which, as Isaac Mao commented, “has showed the social media’s potential routes of transmission and power.”


  • I am honored to contact such courageous souls. You are very inspiriting. To be actually attacked by thugs, and continue your journalistic work makes me proud to be alive. Your inspiration is sorely needed here in the States, where our government’s passively ignoring the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and the veterans, while catering to the greed of the top few percent who hold 90 percent of The United States wealth, has driven us to the brink of falling apart. Americans have for way too long looked to China as an enemy, rather than an inspiration. I find much of your government to be the most logical form of government, and with youth like you I am sure your problems with human rights will be worked out.

    If I can ever be assistance to any of you, I am a blogger, novelist, tv writer and a film-maker, as well as a radio show host… and a military intelligence major from a famous military family; the history of my families heriocs are recorded back to the early three hundreds… I am sure that one day, your ancestors, will look on all of you with the same pride I do my own; this is one writer who will never forget the lesson of this entry.

    I am placing it on my well read blogs, along with an address to this site.

    Thank you again; God bless.

    John Scott Ridgway


    We live in the proud traditions of our forefathers, yet must bring the new knowledge of the sciences to the ruling classes, whereever they are.

    who would be happy

  • […] In cooperation with citizen reporter Zhou Shuguang (Zola) and other two journalists Chen Er (Doubleaf) and Guo Jiannong, Xu Zhiyong, who firstly blogged Beijing’s black jails in the end of September, went to visit one of the unlawful prisons again on Monday, attacked by a group of thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities. [link] […]

  • tian

    i am a chinese , my ID 130204197102104212 . chinese communist party killed my father and brother , now they diged thier grave and robed our land , my old mother seventy year old every day cry for it but can not find out a way resolve it . i see in china have killed a americn man and injured a woman consider is a good way show our opinions , but i am a christant fight to freigners very difficult to me , in china why can not find out one way survive ? why here money equal law and right equal money? my e-mail address

  • tian,

    stay strong, dont give up hope . Chinese people are starting to wake up, starting to really want to know the difference between truth and lies. A lot of them only care for money but the true Chinese souls, they still have integrity and they will have the courage it takes to restor China to a great civilization. Thats what i think because I see more and more people insisting on justice and truth in China, but it will take more courage to solve the massive problem in China, Chinese people will have to really resolve to fix injustice and stand up for what they believe in.

  • Pingback: 6 · Must reads

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  • chan

    Thanks for your encouraging words. I feel better after reading them. I almost lost confidence in the Chinese people and society before.

  • R. Elgin

    There are indeed courageous and honorable Chinese who are great character. They simply are not with the CCP.

  • You are courageous, of this there can be no doubt. All is not lost. Progress has been made and continues to be made. China will one day provide justice for ALL her people. It’s just that it is so damn slow.

  • […] ant-farmers situation in Shenyang, or his cooperation with other bloggers to investigate dubious “black jails” in Beijing after the […]

  • […] from the Beijing South Railway Station had originally planned to gather on February 10 for a day of black prison jailbreaking, but upon hearing that Hubei petitioner Yan Sen and partner had just that day been […]

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