BEIJING, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Ten people who illegally imprisoned 11 petitioners in Beijing last year received jail sentences ranging from six months to two years Tuesday morning.
Three of the ten are minors and received suspended jail sentences of six to 10 months, according to the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court.
Wang Gaowei and his nine accomplices, ranging in age from 17 to 32, are all natives of the city of Yuzhou in central China's Henan province.
They had falsely imprisoned the 11 petitioners, also from Henan, in April 2012 in two courtyards in Wangsiying township in Beijing's Chaoyang district for two to six days before being arrested by police on May 2.
The court ruled that Wang and the other nine respondents had infringed on the personal rights of the 11 petitioners, constituting the crime of false imprisonment.
As well as the jail sentences, the criminals will also have to pay each petitioner between 1,300 yuan (208 U.S. dollars) and 2,400 yuan in compensation, the court said.
"I was reluctant to get in the car, but they forcibly threw me into it," said Jin Hongjuan, a woman who was among the 11 petitioners, who were in Beijing to air grievances regarding compensation paid by local governments in Henan for forced demolitions.
"My blouse was pulled off during the process. I was extremely aggrieved," Jin said.
Chinese who are unsatisfied with local governments' responses to their complaints sometimes choose to take their protests to higher-level governments in Beijing.
Their gripes are often centered around disputes regarding compensation for forced demolitions and relocations, which are usually conducted by local governments to make way for new construction projects.
Local governments that feel vulnerable to such protests sometimes take matters into their own hands, trying all means to stop the petitioners.
"A for-hire notice was posted in our township for security guards in Beijing, offering free board and lodging. My son was hired in early 2012," said the father of Wang Shilei, one of the 10 who was jailed for illegally jailing the petitioners.
The sentence in this case indicates that local governments should make greater efforts to solve problems using lawful methods, said Wang Xixin, a professor of administrative law at the Law School of Peking University.
The sentence will help to protect petitioners' rights, said Shen Kui, another Peking University Law School professor, adding that petitioners' lawful rights, especially those related to personal freedom, should be protected.
Local governments should strive to make it easier for petitioners to make their voices heard and refrain from illegally detaining them, Shen said.