In China, if you have a problem with the authorities, you have the theoretical right to travel to Beijing to put your grievance before officialdom).
In modern China, petitioners make up a marginalised collection of citizens. They are often arrested and sent back to their home provinces. Many spend years trying to get the government to hear their case, but very few ever get any results. They petition on a wide range of cases – I’ve met a builder whose wages were never paid, a man engaged in a long-running land dispute, and a father who sobbed as he explained his campaign for an investigation into his only son’s death.
More often than not, the people doing the arresting and returning will be the administration of whichever province you come from. Having petitioners in Beijing reflects badly on the province, especially you do somehow manage to win action on whatever local injustice has affected you.
Thus comes the system of ‘black guards’ — semi-legal thugs who intimidate petitioners into returning home. Caixin online interviews one, who describes how they work:
After identifying each petitioner, the guards first approach them and ask that they get into a car, saying that officials from their home have made the trip to Beijing to resolve their problems. Most petitioners, however, are unwilling to enter the car. If the locale is crowded, like the entrance to the SBLC, it is not convenient for the guards to simply grab people and carry them away. Instead they wait for the petitioners to leave on their own and follow them to their lodgings, where guards again ask them to get into cars. Usually two guards are assigned to one petitioner, but the number could grow depending on the level of difficulty. If the person refuses to cooperate, the guards simply grab them by the arms and legs and force them into the car. “Usually we don’t hit anybody,” Wang said.