UN human rights experts pressed senior Chinese officials in Geneva about persistent allegations that torture is rife in their police stations and prisons, especially of political prisoners, and about deaths in custody, Reuters reported.
China said it was working to combat torture but that it had not been eliminated.
The United Nations Committee against Torture’s examination Tuesday of Beijing’s record, the first since 2008, came after what the group Human Rights in China says has been “a year of massive crackdowns on rights activists and lawyers” on the mainland.
Chinese government officials told the 10 independent experts the country was working to eliminate torture, including through better training of police and prison guards and audio and video recordings of interrogations.
“Our efforts have produced major progress in our combat against torture,” Chinese ambassador Wu Hailong, who heads the country’s UN delegation of 39 senior officials, told the committee, which is also reviewing the records of Hong Kong and Macau.
Illegally obtained evidence and forced self-incrimination of detainees are banned, Wu said, “thus preventing interrogation through torture”.
He conceded that there is “still a long and arduous path ahead before elimination of torture”.
Committee member George Tugushi said, “Please explain the deaths that have occurred in Chinese detention facilities because people were unable to obtain [medical] treatment on time, based on a number of reports the committee has received.”
Other committee members asked how many Chinese law enforcement officials had been prosecuted for torture, whether victims had access to medical care or compensation, and why so many detainees were held in solitary confinement.
Wu said at the end of the three-hour session that China would respond to the “frank and even sharp questions” on Wednesday.
The committee’s conclusions are due on Dec. 9.
Felice Gaer, an American expert, said the committee had received allegations that seven Chinese activists planning to attend the review in Geneva had been threatened and some were detained on charges of “endangering national security”.
“How is working with the committee a threat to national security?” she asked.
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