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Private Security Company Makes 20 Million a Year Intercepting Petitioners

[Editor’s Note: In China, where officials are rewarded or punished based on their ability to “maintain social stability,” a private security company created a new business to help the government keep citizens from going to Beijing to file grievances with the central government. That company, Beijing An-Yuan-Ding Security and Prevention Technical Service, Ltd, made over 21 million yuan in profit (US$3 million) in 2008. It employed 3,000 security personnel to work with provincial governments to stop, detain, and return petitioners to their hometowns. Traditionally, this kind of job belonged to the police, but in recent years, the government has been outsourcing it to private companies. After recent negative news reports, such as the one that follows, the government took action against this company. People’s Daily reports that Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau officials detained Zhang Jun, chairman of An-yuan-ding Security Service Company, and Zhang Jie, general manager of the company, for “illegally detaining people and illegal business operation.”[1] It is a modern day saga of “private police” and “black jails” right in China’s capital. The following is an abridged version of a recent news report that circulated in China’s official media.] [2]

(Zhengyi Net on September 14) In recent years, more than a dozen citizens who have visited Beijing to report on local official misconduct have complained that a private security company has illegally detained them. These petitioners came from at least seven provinces.

They had very similar experiences: People wearing “special duty” badges forced them into a car; seized their cell phones and ID cards, and took them to a secret place for a brief detention. Their hometown officials later picked up some of them. “Special duty” personnel escorted others back to their hometowns.

After their release, many former detainees remain in the dark as to the location of their detention.

Those episodes all point to a security service company in Beijing called An-Yuan-Ding Security and Prevention Technical Service Company, Ltd. The people (conducting the “detentions”) were dressed in navy blue uniforms and wore special police style hats and “special duty” badges. They were security personnel from An-Yuan-Ding.

After they regained their freedom, some detainees reported the incidents to the police. However, An-Yuan-Ding remained intact and continued conducting business as usual. According to a 2008 annual inspection document, An-Yuan-Ding’s annual income was 21,004,200 yuan for the year. One of their main businesses was assisting local governments in preventing the petitioners from filing grievances (to higher authorities). An-Yuan-Ding’s business has since expanded to Shanghai and Chengdu.

Illegal Detention

From current available information, An-Yuan-Ding has at least three detention facilities in Beijing. One is on Cheng-Shou-Si Road between No. 3 Ring Road South and No. 4 Ring Road South. Another is in an old warehouse in a remote village in the Southern Suburb, behind high walls and a big steel gate. The third one, the headquarters, is near Hong-Si-Qiao in Chaoyang District. There are probably more secret locations, but they cannot easily be identified.

On January 12, 2010, local officials from Shaanxi’s Weinan City took Shaanxi petitioner Mr. Jian Shunli to a small hotel. In the early evening, they pushed him into a bus that was marked “An-Yuan-Ding Escort.” The local officials did not follow him into the bus. The bus took Mr. Jian to the An-Yuan-Ding headquarters near Hong-Si-Qiao. After searching him, they took his cell phone, and he was detained there for two days.

During his detention, Jian Shunli met two petitioners from Hunan Province, Liu Nanzheng and Liu Shunxiang. He also learned that some fellow detainees had been picked up from the Jiu-Jing-Zhuang Visitor Reception Center in Beijing’s Fengtai District. Not surprisingly, the security provider for the visitor center under the Civil Affairs Bureau of Beijing was none other than An-Yuan-Ding.

According to Liu Nanzheng, the “special duty” guards treated the detainees very harshly: “They did not allow us to walk around or stay in the hallway. They yelled at people who failed to follow their rules.” Many detainees complained about the dirty and poor living conditions.

Some petitioners who “misbehaved” were punished. After Ms. Zhao Guirong from Heilongjiang Province argued with other petitioners over food rations, she was moved elsewhere. The guards threatened to force her to share a room with several men if she “refused to behave.” Ms. Zhao recalled, “They were all men. I was the only woman. I was on my knees begging them”

A “special duty” guard said that if a male petitioner misbehaved, the guards would hit him hard, but they would not leave any evidence of injury. Those who received “special attention” had to ask for permission to use the bathroom.

According to Article 37 of China’s Constitution, “No citizen may be arrested except with the approval or by a decision of a people’s procuratorate or by a decision of a people’s court, and arrests must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited.” An-Yuan-Ding’s conduct was believed to be “Unlawful detention.”

Some detainees reported their detention to the police after they were released. According to a former “special duty guard,” the police did visit An-Yuan-Ding, but nothing happened afterward.

Local Governments Provided Business

The business registration document shows that, at present, of the 10 million yuan  in registered capital, Zhang Jun owns 6 million, or 60 percent. The remaining funds came from Geng Tianli, Wan Shuzhen, Zhang Jie, and Liang Zengbin. Each contributed 1 million, or 10 percent of the total.

According to An-Yuan-Ding’s official website, it is a security company that received a “special approval” from the Beijing Development and Reform Committee, the Beijing Police Department, and the Beijing General Security Service Company. In its six years of existence, the company has made “glorious” progress. In 2007, People‘s Daily and eleven other organizations nominated the company as one of the “Top Ten Influential Brands” in China’s security service. In 2008, Beijing General Security Service Company rated An-Yuan-Ding a “Grade A” security company. It employs more than 3,000 security personnel.

Exactly how Zhang Jun discovered such a “unique” business opportunity is not clear. However, An-Yuan-Ding is well known among many provincial liaison offices in Beijing. In a brief meeting with a county official from Central China, the official took out his cell phone and gave the author of this article a phone number, saying, “This is a team leader from An-Yuan-Ding. He is responsible for detaining visitors. Almost all Beijing liaison offices know about the company. You may contact him.”

The “special duty” guards’ uniforms are different from those of ordinary security guards. At first glance, people can easily mistake them for special police. Their job is to stop petitioners in Beijing before they reach the government office, send them to the above-mentioned detention centers, or hand them over to local officials who escort the petitioners home.

On August 13, the reporter talked to “special duty team” leader Zhang. When asked “how much do you charge if we send several ‘disobedient’ petitioners to your place?” he replied, “300 yuan for the first day; 200 a day thereafter.” “What about kickbacks?” the reporter asked. Zhang replied, “If you pay 300 yuan per day, you get 100 back.” Zhang also promised to provide a regular transportation invoice (for reimbursement).

This business can operate even without an authorization letter. Mr. Zhang said, “As long as you have an authorization letter, you don’t have to sign it. We don’t need your organization’s approval. We can do business directly with individuals. Just let us handle your target and you have nothing to worry about.” He also indicated that they could arrange to pick up the petitioners at any designated location. “We have nurses and doctors. We are responsible for minor illnesses. But you have to be responsible for major illnesses.”

In the afternoon on August 14, the reporter called Mr. Zhang again and indicated concern about the company’s credibility. Mr. Zhang said, “I am busy making arrests right now. If we did not have strong connections, how could we dare to make arrests on the streets of Beijing?”

According to a former employee of An-Yuan-Ding, whenever a new petitioner was taken into custody, the staff registered the person’s hometown and who made the arrest. The company used those records to rate the security personnel’s performance and compensation. After Ms. Zhao Guirong was detained, she received a business card from a “base director.” The latter asked her to “refer more petitioners to the company.”

An-Yuan-Ding has two types of security personnel: general security and special security (or special duty personnel). According to a former special security guard, special security members must be “physically strong and at least 1.75 meters tall; they should be able to restrain troublemaking petitioners.”

On the Beijing Security website (, An-Yuan-Ding’s job posting requires that applicants “must not have any family members who are involved in lawsuits or appeal activities.”

July 2010 was the deadline for closing county level liaison offices in Beijing, but many local governments still keep their representatives in Beijing. They believe it is necessary to maintain stability and stop visiting petitioners. Their presence boils down to “invisible liaison offices” in Beijing. A county level liaison official in Beijing from a central province told the reporter that, after the “Li Ruirui incident” (Miss Li was a 20 year old petitioner who was raped by a security guard while in custody in 2009), his supervisor told them not to use outside services to guard their own petitioners.

In his opinion, his supervisor’s request made his job very difficult. He said, “If several batches of petitioners are sent to me, I cannot watch them all. I have to find help or get additional support from my county.” If anyone escaped, “the first time, I would get a warning; if it happened again, my career would probably be over. The boss might say: What can you do anyway? You can’t even watch a petitioner.”

With the increasing pressure to maintain stability and to stop-the-petitioners initiatives, this liaison official believes that An-Yuan-Ding’s business is a direct result of the huge demand on the part of local governments. As long as the need to stop and detain the petitioners exists, people will pursue this kind of business.

The State Bureau for Letters and Calls does not handle grievances directly. It hands them back to the local governments. Many petitioners discovered that their complaints were kicked back to their hometowns, which is where their trouble started. That caused some unreasonable appeal visit to Beijing, which in turn created greater pressure on the local governments.

[1] People’s Daily, English edition, September 27, 2010,
[2] Huanqiu, September 14, 2010,