Caixin’s “Day in the Life of a Beijing Black Guard”: Straight out of “Champa the Driver”

In January 2013, Beijing-based Chan Koonchung’s novel The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver (《裸Caixin's story on Black Guards命》, 陈冠中) was published in Chinese in Hong Kong. The closing chapter recounts how a young, naïve Tibetan chauffeur from Lhasa proudly takes his first job in the capital, working in what he refers to as “Preserving Stability Hotel” (维稳宾馆).

His job: to ensure that the hotel guests remain under lock and key until they can be “escorted” back to their hometowns. It takes a while for Champa to realize that he is just a tool, charged with carrying out a form of extraordinary (domestic) rendition with Chinese characteristics.

On April 2—more than 2 months after Chan Koonchung’s novel was published— CaixinOnline published its own investigative journalism piece documenting a “strange industry” in which “temporary workers” are hired as interceptors to kidnap and imprison would-be petitioners, thus ensuring their grievances do not come to the attention of the central authorities:

Over the past year, Wang [a native of Henan] was stationed near the Guangdong provincial government’s Beijing bureau near the capital’s western Third Ring Road. His job was to help Guangdong officials detain people who had come from the southern province to Beijing to file petitions and then escort them home. There were 20 or 30 others doing the same job he was working under the same supervisor, and there were more than four supervisors providing the service to officials from all over Guangdong stationed in Beijing.

He referred to his profession as “helping the government handle affairs.” The more popular job title is “black guard,” a unique profession that comes in tandem with China’s petition system.

Read more about these “black jails” (extralegal detention centers) in English (A Day in the Life) at CaixinOnline, or check out the novel, The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. 

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