The ruling Chinese Communist Party allows a climate of impunity for those who torture and mistreat inmates and detainees, which is now endemic throughout the country's judicial and law enforcement system, a network of rights groups told the United Nations on Tuesday.
While China ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1988, there is scant sign that it is being implemented in courts, prisons or police-run detention centers, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), which collates reports from rights groups inside China, said in its report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
"[The treaty] remains invisible in Chinese court proceedings and the criminal judicial system," CHRD's report said.
"Despite domestic laws banning torture, judges typically ignore or dismiss torture allegations as well as lawyers' requests to throw out torture-tainted evidence during trials," it said.
Victims who try to seek redress or compensation are often targeted by the authorities instead, it said.
The group cited a number of high profile cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in recent years, including that of activist Liu Ping, whose claims of torture were ignored in court and never investigated.
It also cited the many and complex health problems of top rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, currently under close surveillance after being released from jail last August, who reported months of torture at the hands of the authorities during more than a year's "disappearance."
Four other rights lawyers were "severely beaten" by police in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang in March 2014 after they tried to visit clients held in a detention center, it said.
Xi Jinping campaign
CHRD international director Renee Xia linked the growing number of torture allegations to a campaign waged by President Xi Jinping against "universal values" like human rights and democracy, since he took power in November 2012.
"With mounting evidence from the past two years alone, it is clear that the Xi Jinping administration has continued to use torture and other mistreatment to suppress dissent of its government policies," Xia said in a statement e-mailed to RFA.
CHRD's submission of its report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture comes ahead of a scheduled review of China's compliance with the convention in November, Xia said.
"The Chinese government now has 10 months to clean up its act and bring its law and practice toward full compliance with its treaty obligations to end torture and impunity for torturers," she said.
CHRD also pointed to deprivation of medical treatment as a "commonly used" form of torture by neglect.
It said three activists are known to have died in 2014 soon after their release following torture and the denial of medical treatment behind bars.
Activist Cao Shunli died last March after she was denied treatment for a number of medical problems, while authorities rejected family and lawyers’ requests for medical bail over a period of five months.
CHRD also cited the cases of two Tibetans jailed in the wake of the March 2008 protests in Tibet who died soon after being released several years into long prison sentences.
Goshul Lobsang was released in March and Tenzin Choedak in December. Both had suffered torture and the deprivation of medical treatment while in jail, CHRD said.
"In these cases, the individuals were only let go once it became clear to authorities that they would not survive--suggesting a deliberate tactic by those in charge to avoid any blame," the group said.
Many prisoners in poor health
It said at least 10 prisoners, including Guizhou democracy activist Chen Xi, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti and detained rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, are known to be in poor health and are "known to be subjected to mistreatment," the report said.
"Some of these individuals’ family members fear they may die while incarcerated, and after being denied medical parole numerous times," it said.
For those who die in police custody, there is little access to justice, as the perpetrators are seldom punished, and their "explanations" of the causes of death are believed, even when evidence from autopsies and close family members suggests otherwise, CHRD said.
It said violence against women is rife, especially in unofficial detention and "study" centers known as black jails.
It cited a series of official retaliations against eight former detainees at the Masanjia women's re-education through labor camp, who are seeking compensation over allegations of torture, sexual assault, forced medication and solitary confinement at the hands of camp guards.
The biggest weakness in the Chinese system lies with the lack of a definition of "torture" in the country's laws and guidelines, and with the lack of enforcement of existing rules banning "illegally obtained evidence," the report said.
Meanwhile, a rights lawyer held in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong has lodged a formal complaint over physical abuse while in police detention, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Wang Qingying, who was detained alongside fellow rights lawyers Tang Jingling and Yuan Xinting on May 16 for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”, is now being held on subversion charges in Guangzhou.
"We have made a formal, detailed complaint about...mistreatment, and demanded that he be treated better, including not being forced to sleep on a concrete floor," Wang's lawyer Sui Muqing said.
Sui said Wang had received death threats and repeated bullying from a fellow inmate charged with maintaining discipline in his cell.
Another client of Sui's, Fujian-based rights activist Lin Yingqiang, was found to be suffering from concussion earlier this month after mistreatment inside a police detention center, his wife told RFA.
Lin was beaten up by his police guards who were enraged that he tripped up as they were leaving the court following his sentencing for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" on Feb. 9, she said.
"He has cerebral concussion, a huge bruised area around his neck...and aches and bruises all over his body," she said.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.