Chinese Lawyer's Solitary Confinement Amounts to 'Slow Torture': Wife

Guo Feixiong in a file photo.
Photo courtesy of Guo Feixiong

The wife of a Chinese rights lawyer who has been in movement-restricted solitary confinement with no fresh air or exercise for more than two years has hit out at his inhumane treatment as Beijing's torture record is reviewed by the United Nations.

U.S.-based Zhang Qing, wife of jailed Chinese rights lawyer and activist Yang Maodong, better known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong, said he has been held in Tianhe detention center in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou with no space to move around since August 2013.

"One of the biggest issues is that they have locked Guo Feixiong up for [more than] two years in a very small and confined space, where he hasn't been able to move around," Zhang told RFA in a recent interview.

"He hasn't been allowed outside for exercise, or to see sunlight, and this has done huge damage to his health," she said. "I think that this has already turned into a form of deliberate harm; it's a slow form of torture."

"This is a form of political persecution, and it's a form of physical abuse and torture to lock him up in such a terrible environment for such a long time," Zhang said.

Guo is awaiting sentencing on charges of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" following a trial at Guangzhou's Tianhe District People's Court on Nov. 28.

"I wish they would bring this case to its conclusion," Zhang said. "Of course it's because he is innocent, and they are dragging their feet because they have no evidence."

No verdict after two years

Guo Feixiong's lawyer Zhang Lei said his client's basic human rights have been violated by the long delay in the judicial process.

“It is wrong and unjust that he should have been locked up for so long, because the right to the timely expedition of due legal process is a basic human right, one of the standards laid down in international human rights covenants," Zhang Lei said.

"He has been detained for two years and two months, and it is nearly a year since his trial, and there is still no verdict."

The United Nations Committee against Torture began the second day of its review of China’s compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment on Wednesday amid widespread criticism of Beijing's record from U.S. politicians and rights groups.

"The use of torture in China is widespread and routine, the evidence is clear, and should be a matter the international community takes very seriously," Congressman Chris Smith, who chairs the Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC) said in a statement ahead of the review.

"Ruthless measures are used regularly to crush dissent, repress religious adherents the government can’t control, brutalize women who seek to circumvent China’s draconian population control policies, and silence legal advocates working on behalf of the poor and persecuted," Smith said.

He called on the U.N. committee to hold Beijing to account and resist pressure to "sanitize its record."

Meanwhile, Beijing-based rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who is a former victim of torture, said that at least seven rights lawyers had been prevented from traveling to give evidence to the committee in Geneva by the Chinese authorities in recent weeks.

"A lot of people who could have given testimony about torture, myself included, are unable to leave the country," Yu said on Wednesday. "They included Zhang Keke, who had planned to travel to Geneva ahead of the review."

"It's not just lawyers, either; some human rights defenders and victims of torture ... have received visits from the state security police before they had even tried to leave, telling them not to go," Yu said, adding that many of the activists had requested anonymity.

"The Chinese Communist Party doesn't want lawyers, rights activists or former victims of torture showing up in Geneva and giving testimony," he said.

"There are probably others who have been forbidden to leave the country, but who haven't spoken out about it."

Chinese ambassador Wu Hailong told the 10 independent experts in Geneva on Tuesday that Beijing is "working to eliminate torture" by improving the training of police and prison guards, and audio and video recordings of interrogations.

"Our efforts have produced major progress in our combat against torture," Wu told the committee, adding that illegally obtained evidence and forced self-incrimination of detainees are banned.

Torture remains routine

But rights groups said torture and forced confessions are built into China's judicial system, and that "banning" them on paper isn't going to address the problem.

"They can pass as many reforms on paper as they want; it's not really ... going to make that much of a difference in the long run," Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson told RFA.

She said the Chinese government has no real interest in reforming its judicial system, and it doesn't want to implement strict controls over the police or to forbid them from using torture to extract confessions.

Veteran U.S.-based rights activist Liu Qing agreed.

"China has relied on evidence from forced confessions across its judicial system, sometimes using it as the only evidence or the main evidence, throughout its history," Liu said.

"The only way this will ever change is from within China's own political system; if the Chinese people rise up and change that system."

The CECC said it has gathered reports that torture and other human rights abuses "continue to be routine" in China, and include the denial of medical treatment and the use of forced hospitalization in psychiatric facilities.

The widespread use of unofficial detention centers, known as "black jails," and a lack of clear definition of torture in law ensures the practice goes unpunished, it said.

Reported by Zhang Min and Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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