A group of lawyers has called for an investigation into allegations of torture under the ruling Chinese Communist Party's internal disciplinary system, known as "shuanggui," an overseas-based rights group said on Friday.
Lawyers representing a number of former party officials in the southern province of Hunan say the officials were held for weeks in extrajudicial detention in the shuanggui system pending investigation, often for corruption, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said.
The group named one of the victims as former industrial park official Xiao Yifei from Hunan's Ningyuan county, who was detained from June to December 2012 and then redetained last month, CHRD said in an e-mailed statement.
During that time, Xiao was strung up from the ceiling in full body armor with his hands behind his back in a position know as "hanging pig," before being beaten with a wooden pole, it said.
Officers from the party's Ningyuan County Discipline Inspection Commission also subjected Ning to simulated drowning, deprivation of food, extreme cold, threats and insults, the CHRD cited the lawyers'
letter as saying.
Xiao was re-detained by the same officers on July 19, which his wife said was sparked by his attempt to draw attention to the abuses he suffered in custody.
"After my husband was released, he tried to sue those officials and their leaders for acting illegally," Xiao's wife, Ouyang Xiaohong told RFA in an interview after her husband was re-detained.
"Not only were [they] not punished for breaking the law; they have gone from strength to strength, getting promoted to higher and higher positions," Ouyang said.
She said she believed the attacks on her husband were a form of retaliation. "He didn't do anything criminal," she said.
Outside the law
Prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who is himself currently under detention on public order charges after attending an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square military crackdown, has repeatedly said that the shuanggui system under which the party investigates its own officials is entirely outside the law.
Wang Jinxiang, who manages the popular watchdog Web site "China Monitor Web," agreed.
"From a legal perspective, the shuanggui system used by party organizations is pretty inappropriate," Wang said. "Party organizations should have to use the law to take action against individuals."
He said confessions forced by torture rarely stood up in court.
"Cases which rely on forced confessions usually develop problems down the line," Wang said. "They don't stand the test of time."
Ouyang said her husband's detention was an example of how unaccountable party disciplinary procedures are.
"The people who arrested my husband...didn't produce any form of ID, and they wore plainclothes," she said. "They just took my husband away in a plain car with no police registration."
Chinese authorities have previously cracked down on anyone trying to bring abuses of the shuanggui system to public attention, however.
In November 2012, former state prosecutor-turned-whistleblower Shen Liangqing was was prevented from traveling to Hong Kong for the launch of his book on the shuanggui system by police, who held him under unofficial detention at a tourist resort.
Shen's book, titled "Shuanggui: an Investigative Report by a Former Prosecutor" depicts party investigators "doing anything they like" in the name of the fight against corruption, he wrote online at the time of its launch.
After coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping launched a high-level corruption probe targeting high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies" alike. However, the authorities have jailed a number of outspoken activists who called on the leadership to reveal their assets publicly.
The party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which administers the shuanggui system, announced last month it would begin a corruption probe targeting former security czar Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranking official to be investigated publicly since communist rule began.
However, lawyers say "shuanggui" system is a throwback to the Mao era of kangaroo courts and political "struggle sessions" which took the decisions of the Party as a form of law.
The system for interrogating party members is mirrored by a similar system for internal investigations into civil servants who aren't party members.
Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.