Chinese court asks newspaper to apologise, say reports

December 03, 2012 - 6:51:15 am

BEIJING: A Chinese court has asked for an apology from a newspaper which said it jailed 10 “interceptors” who illegally held petitioners attempting to lodge complaints with the government, state media reported yesterday.

The state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday that 10 were imprisoned for illegally detaining people from the central province of Henan who had travelled to Beijing to complain about local government abuses.

The widely-circulated report struck a chord among many Chinese dissatisfied with the age-old “petitioning” system, which allows citizens to request the central government to investigate disputes such as land grabs and unpaid wages.

Officials, eager to protect their reputations, often employ “interceptors” to catch petitioners and detain them in secret facilities known as “black jails” to prevent them from lodging complaints.

The newspaper said a Beijing court handed down sentences ranging from several months to a year-and-a-half in prison for “illegal imprisonment”, the first time such workers have been sentenced in the capital.

But a court spokeswoman branded the report, which was carried by most major Chinese news websites and widely spread on Chinese social networking websites, as “fake news”, another state-run newspaper, the China Daily, reported.

The spokeswoman, who was not named, “confirmed a case involving city officials from Henan had been heard”, but “denied judges had handed down any verdict”, the paper said. 

Beijing’s Chaoyang District Court, which reportedly handed down the verdict, is “in negotiations with Beijing Youth Daily over the printing of an apology and explanation”, the paper said.