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Petitioners Expose Abusive Conditions in Shandong "Education" Facility

February 1, 2007

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that officials in
Yantai City, Shandong Province have been carrying out a harsh crackdown against
petitioners. Former detainees of a local petitioner education center have told
HRIC of verbal, physical and mental abuse and coercive psychiatric treatment,
and say this facility is just one of hundreds used throughout China to detain
people attempting to exercise their right to petition the government.

Sources in China told HRIC that in 1995, Yantai City established a
"petitioner education center" in Shihuiyao Township, Zhifu District, run by the
city's Letters and Petitions Office. The current supervisor of the center is Gao
Shihai. Sources say that more than a thousand individual "education" sessions
have been undertaken at the center since it was established. According to a
petitioner who has been detained in the center, 17 other cities in Shandong
Province have operated similar facilities, but petitioners are still routinely
detained only in the cities of Jinan, Yantai, Qingdao and
Rizhao.

According to a former detainee, the Zhifu District facility
consists of a row of two-story buildings equipped with iron doors and patrolled
by watch dogs. Typically, one to four petitioners are held in each locked room,
but in the course of crackdowns during politically sensitive periods, more than
10 people may be held in each room, or a total of more than 100 people in the
entire facility. Sources say the buildings are not heated in the winter or
cooled in the summer, and poor ventilation results in unacceptable air quality.
Detainees are not provided with regular exercise sessions, and lights are kept
on all night. Detainees reportedly receive only two meager meals a day, and even
these rations are sometimes arbitrarily withheld. Detainees are reportedly also
subjected to regular physical and verbal abuse by education center
personnel.

Sources provided HRIC with the names of more than 20
individuals who have been detained in the education center in recent years. They
include current detainees Yang Keliang and Jiang Shaogui, aged 75
and 83 respectively, and a dozen other individuals who were held for months at a
time and only released when they attempted suicide. Detainees also include Yu
Xianshan
, who was reportedly kicked so savagely by education center guards
that he has become incontinent as a result; and Jing Meizhi, whom guards
reportedly locked in a room with a guard dog that bit her repeatedly. Jing
Meizhi was subsequently committed to a psychiatric hospital against her will and
forced to receive treatment for more than five months, and sources told HRIC of
at least five other petitioners who were also forcibly admitted to psychiatric
hospitals. When another petitioner, Sun Cuijuan, was detained in the
education center in 2003, sources say, her six-year-old daughter was detained
along with her.

Local authorities have not been criticized for the
abusive conditions at the education center; rather, sources say, state and
provincial officials have praised the effectiveness of the center's methods and
have recommended that the facility be replicated throughout China. According to
HRIC's sources, many such petitioner education centers are currently being
operated in China. Another facility in Yunxi County, Shiyan City, Hubei
Province was recently exposed in the Chinese media for incarcerating a
seven-year-old girl, Zheng Linxin, along with her petitioner mother.

HRIC
deplores the unlawful and abusive treatment of petitioners in the "education"
facility. In recent years, local officials throughout China have expended
massive resources in monitoring and detaining petitioners, and even in following
them to Beijing and forcibly escorting them home when they attempt to petition
the central government. The central authorities have openly acknowledged that
the vast majority of petitioners have legitimate grievances, and that they are
entitled by law to report injustice and official abuse. In advance of its review
by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in May 2008, HRIC urges the
central government to launch official inquiries into the "education" facilities
in Yantai, Shiyan and other places in China and put an end to the abusive
practices employed against petitioners detained there.

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