BEIJING: A Beijing court sentenced 10 people to prison today for illegally detaining citizens trying to take their local grievances to the central government, state media reported, in a possible sign the government is trying to rein in abuses.
Illegal detention of petitioners is believed to be common, but is, like all legal and public order issues in China, a matter of great sensitivity.
Such petitioners are frequently intercepted by local government agents and detained illegally in shabby hostels known as black jails.
The government has recently begun acknowledging the existence of such places as part of modest attempts to stamp out the most glaring abuses of power.
In the case today, 11 petitioners from central Henan province had traveled to the capital hoping to air their grievances under a system that harkens back to ancient times when Chinese emperors were obligated to hear complaints brought from commoners in the provinces.