11/11/2008, 00.00
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UN, China under scrutiny for state torture

The session of the UN commission against torture is underway in Geneva. International groups for the defense of human rights denounce dozens of cases of imprisonment and psychological and physical violence in China, against human rights activists and ethnic minorities. The case of Ji, sentenced to three months in prison for asking for permission to demonstrate.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Ji Sizun has been in prison since August 11 for asking for permission to hold a demonstration in an area of Beijing set aside for public demonstrations during the Olympics. The charge comes from the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), while the work of the UN commission against torture proceeds in Geneva. The commission has to decide whether China has made progress in the abolition of "state" torture.

During the Beijing Olympics, in order to demonstrate the freedom that exists, public demonstrations were permitted in three specific areas. On August 9, Ji, an inhabitant of Xhangzhou (Fujian), accompanied by dozens of Chinese and foreign journalists, asked - according to CHRD - to be allowed to hold a peaceful protest on "social and political questions." The police did not grant the request, because it was presented on a Saturday, outside office hours. He returned on August 11 to make the request again, and since then he has "disappeared." Then it became known that he was arrested for "falsification of an official stamp." Since that time, his friends have been unable to visit him. The police rejected the lawyer hired by his friends, because he did not have authorization from Ji's family (also unavailable since then), and appointed a public defender.

From now until November 21, the 41st session of the United Nations committee against torture is taking place in Geneva. From November 7-10, it examined the situation in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Beijing wants to avoid new official censure, after being the object of this in recent years, and it has announced with great fanfare the institution of a commission to create a "plan of state action" for the respect of human rights.

International NGO's for the defense of human rights, in their reports to the commission, have recalled the systematic use of torture and harassment, both against detainees and with the system of "reeducation through work," which permits extending "administrative" penalties of up to two years in prison without a real trial, a system already described in 2006 by the special UN envoy against torture as "an inhumane and degrading form of treatment or punishment, if not psychological torture," recommending its abolition.

Underground Christians and Catholics suspect that torture is also being used on bishops, priests, and pastors in prison (see Catholic’s doubts on the death of Msgr. Han Dingxian, underground bishop of Yongnian).

The NGO's have recalled dozens of specific cases, with names and circumstances. The China Human Rights Lawyer Concern Group has recalled the numerous lawyers and activists who have been beaten or sentenced to prison for defending human rights, such as: Xu Zhiyong, from Beijing, beaten for denouncing the existence of "phantom" prisons (unofficial prisons for detaining people not officially arrested); Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng (in the photo), who defended the inhabitants of Linyi (Shandong) against forced abortions; Guo Feixiong, who denounced the corruption of authorities in the village of Taishi (Guangdong), often beaten in prison; Zheng Enchong, who defended citizens against forced expropriation, first sentenced to prison, and then, after his release, frequently beaten by the police or summoned for interrogation. Hu Jia was sentenced to prison for criticizing forced expropriation in order to build Olympic projects.

It is also claimed that systematic detention and beatings have also been used against Tibetans and Uyghurs, again with lists of names and circumstances.

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China announces “action plan” on human rights
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