09/17/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Torture in China continues

As China prepares its fifth periodic report to the Committee against Torture, Chinese Human Rights Defenders charges Beijing of formally banning violence in prisons, when in fact they continue and are getting worse.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – China “plays up its participation with the UN human rights regime for public relations purposes, yet it continues to ignore or actively challenge recommendations made by the Committee against Torture. [. . .] Meanwhile, torture remains a serious problem across China,” said Renee Xia, international director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), who was speaking about Beijing’s upcoming fifth periodic report to the Committee against Torture (CAT).

The CHRD made public its own report to the Committee on 8 September, listing all the cases and situations that Chinese authorities must address in its next report.

Under its rules, the Committee asks states to submit a regular progress report. China has yet to meet requests made following its fourth periodic report in 2008. Indeed, “some of the issues raised by CAT in 2008, such as unnatural deaths in detention and the harassment of human rights defenders, have worsened,” Xia noted.

Formally, torture has been banned in China. The constitution and various articles in the criminal code prohibit violence against prisoners. As a sign of good will, Beijing even allowed the UN special rapporteur to visit Chinese prisons in 2007.

However, there are still many cases of torture in prison, and this in spite of a new law banning the use of evidence obtained through torture in criminal trials. However, according to CHRD, the new legislation is vague and weak; it can be easily sidestepped in prison and the courtroom.

“Even more important than the language of these regulations, however, is their implementation” because police often act as they please.

There are so many examples to back up this scepticism. For example in November 2009, four police officers were sentenced to less than three years in prison for torturing to death a student in the northern province of Shaanxi.

The four, including a local police chief, were convicted for abuse of power. They used torture, they said, to extract a confession from the student.

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