Authorities in China have detained thousands of people who converged on Beijing to highlight grievances against government officials in their hometowns, sending them off to start the Year of the Rooster in a detention center.
As the rest of the country got together with family to mark the Chinese New Year, crowds have continued to gather outside central government offices since the first day of the New Year on Jan. 28, Radio Free Asia reported.
Wu Jixin, a petitioner from the eastern province of Jiangsu, said he was detained after raising a banner with around a dozen fellow petitioners.
But he said local government “interceptors” had been hard at work in Beijing detaining anyone from their region who complained about the government there.
“The local governments are detaining people left, right, and center in Beijing because petitioning puts these governments under more political pressure,” Wu said. “The petitioners just want their grievances to be dealt with.”
He said large numbers of people are now being held in huge detention centers on the outskirts of Beijing for “registration,” before being sent home under the escort of interceptors.
Interceptors frequently use violence against petitioners on the journey home, activists say, with a string of such incidents reported in recent weeks.
Petitioners also frequently report beatings from police back home, harassment by landlords and employers, and incarceration in psychiatric hospitals when they have no mental illness.
Deaths and “disappearances” in unofficial detention centers, or “black jails,” are also not uncommon, but evidence of police wrongdoing is hard to come by when authorities typically refuse to allow independent autopsies.