Last March, while China's legislature held its 10-day annual meeting in Beijing, five citizens say they were being held against their will in a Holiday Inn near Shanghai, reports CNN. They had come to China's capital as "petitioners" looking to file grievances that had fallen on deaf ears in their local provinces. Instead, they say they were intercepted by plainclothes police officers and carted back to Shanghai—and to the hotel where they were guarded around the clock. One woman, who wanted greater compensation after being forced out of her home to make room for an airport, says she even attempted to escape off a third-story balcony; she says at least seven guards stopped her, brought her back to her room, and restrained her using the bedspread.
Both Chinese officials and the firm that owns Holiday Inn say the incident didn't happen, but human rights groups allege so-called "black prisons" are nothing new in the country. While being held in such facilities, prisoners are "routinely subjected to physical abuse, sleep deprivation, and very often they have to buy their way out of custody," says one activist, who adds that contractors pay "per head for each person they abduct and hold." What makes the most recent allegations different, notes CNN, is that a hotel owned by a Western company is for the first time being accused of serving as a "black prison." (Read more China stories.)