Chinese Gulags still booming despite reforms
Torture is still commonplace in Chinese detention centers. Despite reforms adopted in recent years, police abuses continue to be used to extract confessions and the courts continue to condemn those who have admitted their guilt under ill-treatment.
These accusations are part of a new report issued by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The usual mistreatment of detainees include chaining for days to ‘special’ chairs, called “tiger chairs”; being hung by the wrists, abuse by so-called “cell bosses” or other prisoners who are assigned by the police to carry out surveillance of their peers, details the report titled “Tiger Chairs and Cell Bosses”.
In one case, a prisoner awaiting the outcome of his appeal against a death sentence remained chained for eight years. Beatings and the use of electric shocks also occur.
The report is based on the testimonies of 48 lawyers, officials, relatives of prisoners and recent detainees. It analyzes the verdicts of hundreds of criminal cases issued between January 1 and April 30, 2014.
In 432 cases there is a reference to possible torture of suspects, but only 23 court judgments ruled that evidence was obtained through alleged mistreatment. In none of the cases the accused were acquitted.
“Almost all suspects in criminal cases have been subjected to abuse including beatings and insults, lack of sleep, dehydration and threats, explains the report.
Basically every office of the Public Security has a tiger chair, electric batons and other equipment used to abuse prisoners. “They keep these instruments in the offices”, confessed a former policeman in the northern province of Heilongjiang.
After a series of scandals in 2009 and 2010, the Chinese authorities adopted a series of measures to prohibit torture and to obtain evidence through torture.
In theory, authorities decided to place video recording devices in places where interrogations take place as well as prohibited the existence of “cell bosses”, but in reality things work differently.
In a way, HRW admits, some types of torture have decreased. But in other cases, officials simply found alternative ways to carry out the abuse.
According to testimony, to avoid detection some police officers bring those arrested to the detention centers and torture them elsewhere or use methods that leave no visible marks. In other cases, the judges of the courts ignore clear evidence of abuse.
As it stands now, the Chinese criminal justice system, according to HRW, allows numerous opportunities for the police to perpetrate abuses of detainees.
Prisoners awaiting trial are under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security, not of the Justice System.
Police officers can continue to hold a person ‘incommunicado’ for 37 days without the intervention of the judicial system. Lawyers for the prisoners are not allowed to be present during interrogation and those arrested are denied the right to remain silent.
“Prosecutors and judges rarely question police conduct or the monitoring mechanisms, which in any case are still weak,” says the report.
“Despite years of reforms, the police still torture suspects to confess their crimes and courts convict people who have confessed under torture,” denounces Sophie Richardson, the Director of Human Rights Watch in China.
“Unless and until the suspects may have lawyers during interrogation and have other basic protections, and until the police are held accountable for abuses, it is unlikely that these new measures will help eliminate torture,” concludes the report.