One of the earliest in China's first wave of bloggers to take up live reporting of local news, Zhang Shihe (aka ‘Tiger Temple’), is also one of the last of that group still active. Blogging on at 24 hours online, his latest post revisits the issue of China's black prisons, often apartments or shabby motels where petitioners are held illegally or processed for domestic rendition.
Zhang's February 13 post, ‘In an act of righteous resistance against violence, burning down a black prison to awaken people to rule without law’, tells a bit of the remarkable and ongoing story of Hubei petitioner Yan Sen through tweets and text messages:
Zhang has since posted a few updates to the story on Twitter:
After Hubei petitioner burnt down a black prison this morning, nobody has been able to reach him on his mobile. According to people at the scene, there were two people outside the black prison at the time. Thus the only calculable loss has been this blog which Sina has censored due to a post regarding the situation. I don't know who made that decision, but I'm already trying to get in touch with Sina.
Update on the burning down of the black jail: Yan Sen is safe but has been locked up again, his captors won't report the fire to the police because they're afraid of them finding out about the black prison. Staying tuned.
After the black prison was burnt down, the number of people watching over him was increased to four. Yan Sen has sent in a message: They're scrambling now to repair the prison after it was torched to destroy any evidence of its existence. Yan Sen said he hopes journalists will get in touch with him. He's now completely cut off from the world, his freedom lost. I'm still waiting to hear back if whether or not I can publish his phone number.
I've been been trying Yan Sen's mobile for over an hour, it keeps saying the number cannot be reached.
The prison people threatened Yan Sen this morning saying he has to compensate them for the damages and that he better watch out for his wife and kid. Then this afternoon they did a total 180 and suddenly released Yan Sen. Media, please get in touch with me, this is at Yan Sen's request…..
When he lit the prison on fire, Yan Sen was still locked inside. We were worried he might “self-immolate,” because Yan Sen's just hardcore like that. Later the fire took and began to grow and the two guards frantically bust the door open. Yan Sen stood outside with them and watched it burn. The windows blew out and the flames shot up high. Yan Sen sent us the message: Success! (Meaning he wanted the motherland to find out)
Since Yan Sen completely liberated himself, now the prison don't want him to leave and a leader from the city wants to meet with him tomorrow. After Yan Sen lit the prison on fire but before he rushed out, he left a message on the wall: ‘Let black prisons burn! Yours, Yan Sen’. Currently the prison operators have been working night and day to restore the prison, afraid that now with Yan Sen gone, word of it will get out. Please everyone stay tuned. We won!
Yan Sen from Jingmen, Hubei, is now officially free. The leader the prison people said was coming today turned out only to be Yan Sen's younger brother and sister. As they left with their older brother they were threatended not to “go flapping your mouth around”. Yan Sen, however, says this arrow's already been shot there's no getting it back now! It's do-or-die for me, until all black prisons have been smashed down.” Yan Sen at this point wants to wish all netizens and twitterfolk watching out for him a happy Lantern Festival, and sends his thanks to civil society!
湖北省高法通知阎森本月22号前往立案庭。但阎森知道时逢此时不过又是一次维稳举措而已，去了也会被通知一个月以后如何，然后天下太平，升官发财。阎森公布了电话，接受关心他的网友和媒体 13277663168 建议短信交流避免资讯堵塞。
The Hubei provincial court has sent Yan Sen a summons requiring him to go down before the 22nd. But Yan Sen knows this is just another tactic the Stability Office users. If he goes he'll just get another summons for a month from now, things will go back to normal while officials get richer and promoted. Yan Sen has publicized his phone number and will take calls from concerned netizens or media: 13277663168. Text messages are advised to avoid tying up the line.
Since Yan Sen broke out of his black prison, the operators have been reinforcing it. Part of that has been to cover the inside walls with ceramic tile. Yan Sen suspects that once this is done, prisoners will no longer be able to scribble reactionary slogans of resistance on the walls! This rightfully embodies the scientific concept of prison-building, and is also borne of experience.
A bandit's thoughts on Beijing black prisons, part one: Black prison boss Liu is from Hebei. With his bullet-shaped head and three burly hometown buddies standing guard, he specializes in dragging people from the government-run Jiujingzhuang Aid Center to his black prison where he hoards prisoners. For provincial governments everywhere lacking the ability or patience to keep sending petitioners back home, for between RMB 300-400 a day they can instead entrust him with keeping petitioners locked up. Yan Sen was ‘sold’ to Liu at the price of RMB 400/day.
A bandit's thoughts on Beijing black prisons, part two: A daily schedule is kept on the wall of the black prison, specifying times for exercise and lights out. Usually, “the goods” are not beaten. There's a computer in the black prison for the guards to keep from getting bored. The rooms are full of cigarettes and booze sent it by different provincial ‘interception’ offices who see it a done deal as long as the people are not release. As soon as black prisons are exposed online, they relocate and continue operations. People who try and call the police have their phones confiscated.
A bandit's thoughts on Beijing black prisons, part three: Yan Sen's impression of his captors after speaking with the other detainees: stupid, plainspoken, and terror-stricken, beating anyone they suspected of being a mole. One woman from Guangxi who tried to sneak in a call to the police was beaten when found out, her mobile phone taken away and smashed to pieces. The longest there had been kept for over twenty days, with the provincial ‘interception’ office making daily trips to the black prison to drop off the massive payments. Black prisons in Beijing are already an industry of their own.