Beijing (AsiaNews) "China cannot accept the so-called conclusion that torture is widespread," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. He denied the findings of UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak that torture is widespread in the country and said it had asked the envoy to think again.
"The rapporteur was only in China for two short weeks, and went to three cities after which he made the judgment that torture was widespread. This lacks an objective foundation and does not accord with reality," he noted, adding that torture is banned and that laws severely punish police officers who torture.
By contrast, following his visit to Chinese prisons, the first one Beijing agreed to in ten years, Nowak complained that his team was under frequent surveillance, especially when meeting victims and their relatives. And government officials and security authorities tried to obstruct or restrict his fact-finding attempts." There was, in his words, "a palpable level of fear and self-censorship".
Nowak's visit included stops in Tibet and Xinjiang, provinces notorious for police violence against residents accused of separatism, but time constraints prevented him from going to Shandong, torture capital for the followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which Beijing considers an evil sect to be crushed.
In his report, the UN rapporteur did not even address the torture practiced in psychiatric hospitals where many political dissidents are sent.
In its latest news brief on China released in early November, Human Rights Watch notes that "[i]t is time for China's leaders to decide that their 'modernization' drive should include an end to barbaric practices such as using psychiatric facilities and medically unnecessary drugs to punish those with different political views."
The brief specficially referred to the case of Wang Wanxing, a 56-year-old Beijing resident who was discharged from a mental institution 13 years after staging a brief, one-man pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square on the eve of the third anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown. His act had landed him in the Beijing Public Security Bureau's Ankang Hospital for the Custody and Treatment of Mentally Ill Offenders after he was diagnosed with "paranoid psychosis".
The dissident described some of the staff at the Beijing Ankang as being "basically sadistic" in nature. Almost every week, and sometimes several times a week, they would punish difficult or stubborn patients by tying them to a bed and administering painfully high levels of electric acupuncture treatment.
Overall, China has the largest prison inmate population in the world and holds the world's death penalty record with 90 per cent of all executions.
Beijing has also been criticised for enforcing the death penalty on prisoners sentenced thanks to extorted confessions.
Back in April the authorities acknowledged that She Xianglin was unjustly sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife, who later turned up saying she had just run away. He had been sentenced on an allegedly extorted confession.
Similarly, in June a woman showed up after her alleged murderer, Teng Xingshan, who protested his innocence till the end, had already been executed.
"Teng has confessed that he was responsible for the crime" read the verdict.