China Power

The Press and Black Jails

China’s police look to have back-pedaled over a magazine article looking at black jails.

At first it seemed like it was going to be another often seen example of the authorities trampling on press freedom. Last month, the finance magazine Caijing ran an article describing how Anyuanding Security Services was believed to be being paid by local government officials to abduct and lock up regular citizens who travelled to Beijing to complain about injustices they experience in their hometowns.

However, rather than investigate the claims over these so-called black jails—which authorities have repeatedly said don’t even exist—media reports said police actually raided the magazine to try to get it to reveal its sources.

But this time, the story didn’t end there. After much speculation—and anger—on the internet, other publications took up the story, including the Southern Metropolis Daily, which reported that officials paid up to $45 a day for citizens to be detained.

And this week, according to state media, it seems the police buckled. The China Daily reported that police in Beijing were investigating the security company and that the chairman, Zhang Jun, and General Manager Zhang Jie had been detained.

China Daily reported: ‘The company’s label had been removed and its website was shut down on Sunday. However, the company denied their service includes “allocating petitioners”, and said its business is still going.

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‘“I don't know about anything reported by the media. I'm in charge of bodyguard recruitment, and we're still doing business. I don't know if our company does any business like the media reported,” said a man surnamed Yu who works for the company.’

Hats off to Caijing for running the piece in the first place and not backing down—and to the police for apparently changing tack in this case.