When I first blogged about black jails back in 07 they seemed to be ad hoc affairs: disused motels up side streets where interceptor teams from various provinces detained petitioners come to the capital to seek redress for local abuses. Now they seem to have expanded into large formal processing systems for inconvenient persons:
Wu and other petitioners described the center as a collection of rooms and buildings, furnished only with plastic waiting-room seats, capable of holding several thousand people, although they said it normally holds a few hundred. Petitioners, who are divided up according to their province of origin, are fed a meal comprising two steamed buns, an egg, and a helping of pickled vegetables.
They are then fed out from there to holding centres maintained by different provinces before being sent back to where they came from. Anyway, the story here concerns a rumour that the central government had ordered the release of 70,000 black jail prisoners. This turned out not to be the case, though a few hundred were let go.
On the face of it this rumour isn't credible: it's hard for the government to simply dissolve a set of institutions that it chooses not to know about in the first place. But the fact that it took hold does seem to indicate that Xi Jinping's early promises to curb official abuses of power are being believed, and believed by people with very good reason to be cynical about the system as a whole.
We do seem to be moving towards a fairly intense rectification campaign targeted at corrupt cadres, more on which tomorrow, perhaps. I'll just note for know that the crackdown seems to be at its most forward in Chongqing, where it's post Bo Xilai open season, and in Guangdong, the lair of reputed reformer Wang Yang.