China 'Ignores' U.N. Treaty, Routinely Tortures Activists: Report

Chen Guangcheng speaks alongside his wife after receiving a U.S. award on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 29, 2013.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has ushered in the harshest crackdown on critics yet under President Xi Jinping, has largely ignored a United Nations treaty banning all forms of torture or cruel and degrading punishment, an overseas rights group said in a recent report.

"Torture and ill-treatment or cruel punishment in China remain rampant and worrisome, and authorities have continued to use many forms of torture against [rights activists]," the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said in its annual report.

While the U.N. Committee against Torture reviewed China’s implementation of its treaty obligations under the Torture Convention last November, Chinese police "have largely ignored this treaty," the group said.

"The persistent use of torture is, in part, a consequence of the impunity enjoyed by torturers, including police and other state agents," it said.

Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng, currently in the United States, described his personal experience of torture in an essay for RFA's Mandarin Service.

"The Linyi Detention Center ... echoed from dawn till dusk with the slapping and thudding sound of belts and rubber truncheons impacting on human flesh, and the cries of people being beaten up," Chen wrote in a recent blog post.

"Often, the in-house prosecutors would pass by such scenes of torture, and pretend they hadn't seen it, sharing a laugh with the prison guards in their flagrant act of breaking the law," he said.

Meanwhile, Gu Shuhua, the Canada-based wife of Chinese asylum seeker Dong Guangping, said she fears her husband may be tortured after he was detained by Thai police in Bangkok and handed back to China after being granted refugee status by the United Nations.

"All I want right now is for some news of my husband, and I hope that he hasn't been tortured," Gu told RFA in a recent interview. "I hope that he is safe and well."

Subversion charges

According to CHRD, the authorities are also detaining more people on serious political charges like "subversion" if they engage in activity aimed at defending human rights.

Twenty-two activists or petitioners were detained during 2015 on charges of either "incitement to subvert state power," or "subversion of state power," as many as in the three previous years combined.

In January alone, CHRD said it had documented 11 cases of arrests on suspicion of "subversion," more than occurred from 2012-2014 put together.

"More than 700 [rights activists] ... were arbitrarily detained for at least five days — deprived of their liberty of movement in retaliation for their exercise or advocacy for human rights," the group said in a statement issued alongside the annual report.

"Developments point to an overall escalation of persecution against HRDs in 2015, including longer average detention times and greater severity of criminal charges," it said.

More than 100 rights activists spent some or all of last year in pre-trial detention that was prolonged beyond the legally allowed time limit, it said.

"In some cases, detainees have been held for more than two-and-a-half years, which means that they have been punished and deprived of their liberty for a significant period of time without any judicial review," the group said.

The group, which compiles reports from a number of rights groups inside China, called on the Chinese government to stop using political charges against those who seek to defend their rights, or those of others.

It also called for an end to "unreasonably prolonged" pretrial detention, and an end to provisions in the Criminal Procedure Law allowing police to hold people under "residential surveillance" for up to six months in an unknown location, with no access to family or lawyers.

Unprecedented attack

"2015 will go down in history as the year that Chinese authorities launched an unprecedented attack on China’s human rights lawyers," the group said, adding that of more than 300 detained and questioned, 22 remain in custody, 19 of whom have now been formally arrested.

"Of the 19 arrested, all but three face 'political' charges of 'subversion' or 'inciting subversion of state power,'" CHRD said.

It said "draconian" legislation passed in July and August has legitimized the continuing and escalating persecution of Chinese rights activists and those working in non-government groups, which often work to protect the rights of workers, people with specific diseases or disabilities, women and the LGBT community.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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