Info on
prisons in:

Hong Kong
The Philippines
South Korea

Of Asian countries, China, India and Thailand have the largest numbers of people in confinement. China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, have the largest prison populations in the region, although India incarcerates only a fraction of the number of inmates found in China. Indeed, its rate of incarceration is among the lowest in the world, as is that of Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan and Nepal.

Singapore, followed by Taiwan, has the highest known incarceration rate in the region. (No information is available regarding the number of prisoners in North Korea, however.)


Prison conditions in Burma continued to be a source of concern in 1998. But in a rare event, the International Committee of the Red Cross was allowed to hold a February 1998 seminar on health matters for Burma's prison doctors in Rangoon.

Three well-known detainees were reported to have died in custody during 1998, their deaths almost certainly exacerbated by prison conditions or ill-treatment: Aung Kyaw Moe, a student leader, Thein Tin, an NLD Rangoon division organizer, and Saw Win, an NLD parliamentarian. U Tin Shwe, sixty-seven, a NLD central committee member, died on June 8, 1997, after nearly six years in Insein jail. The official report said he had died of heart disease in Rangoon General Hospital. During 1997 at least five political prisoners had to receive emergency medical treatment. Many of the most prominent political prisoners were transferred to jails far from their families, making visits difficult and the provision of extra food and medicines almost impossible.

The following links provide information on prisons in Burma:


The following are links to information relating to Cambodian prisons:


Thousands of political prisoners remained behind bars in 1997 and 1998, and prison conditions continued to be poor with consistent reports of torture and denial of medical care. In May 1997, labor rights activist Liu Nianchun, serving a three-year labor reeducation term in Shuanghe Labor Reform Camp in the far northeast of the country, staged a hunger strike in protest against the authorities' unlawful extension of his own prison term and those of two other Beijing dissidents. As punishment for carrying out the hunger strike, Liu was subsequently subjected to beatings with electric shock batons, denied water for an extended period, and placed in solitary confinement. As of September 1997, he was reported to be suffering from a blocked intestine, swollen lymph nodes and extensive mouth ulcers but had received no medical treatment. Similarly, Zhou Guoqiang, whose original three-year jail term was earlier extended by one year after he made a failed escape attempt, was said to be receiving no treatment for his prison-contracted tuberculosis.

Wang Guoqi, an independent labor activist serving an eleven-year sentence in Beijing, was denied all family visits during 1997 on the grounds that he had "failed to memorize the prison rules."

Dissidents freed from detention after completing their administrative sentences of labor reeducation in full described punishingly long hours of work in prison.

In July 1997, the Ministry of Public Security called for teams of inspectors to be set up at all levels of China's police force to investigate the endemic problem of torture and ill-treatment in the country's prison and detention facilities.

At least ten and possibly twelve prisoners reportedly died following two protests in Drapchi prison in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in May 1998. The first protest took place on May 1, the second on May 4, on the day of a visit to the prison by ministers from the E.U. troika countries. During both, prisoners shouted slogans in support of independence and the Dalai Lama. In the weeks following the E.U. visit, scores of prisoners were interrogated, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement. Some of the prisoners were reported to have died in early June 1998. Two reportedly were killed by gunfire during one of the protests, while others were said to have died from beatings. Authorities in Tibet maintained that many of the deaths were suicides. No independent investigation had taken place by the end of the year.

Details of retaliation against prisoners involved in a earlier protest during the visit of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in October 1997 became known in 1998. Three prisoners who shouted political slogans reportedly were beaten and held in solitary confinement for a lengthy period before having their prison terms extended between three and ten years.

Prison conditions in Tibet, as in China, are said to be poor, frequently resulting in prisoners’ ill-health. Some prisoners were also believed to have died in 1998 as a result of punishment. Yeshe Samten, a monk, died on May 6, 1998, six days after he was released from Trisam prison, reportedly as a result of torture he had suffered during his two-year sentence. The E.U. ministers reported that they were told there were some 1,800 prisoners in Tibet of whom some 200 were held for state security crimes. Unofficial figures are much higher.


In March 1997, the outgoing government allowed Human Rights Watch and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor to conduct the first-ever international investigation of the territory's prison system. The investigation was undertaken as a way of establishing benchmarks against which to measure changes that might take place after the transition. (Given China's notoriously poor prison conditions and its frequent use of capital punishment, some of Hong Kong's 12,000 prisoners expressed grave apprehensions regarding their treatment under Chinese rule.) In light of these concerns, the investigation was also meant to establish a precedent of independent monitoring of the territory's prisons, to encourage future monitoring. In general, the delegation found the prisons to be administered by an extremely competent and professional staff, the physical infrastructure to be in good shape, and the prisons themselves to be relatively safe and secure. On the negative side, the delegation found that many of the prisons were seriously overcrowded and the controls on contact with the outside world were unnecessarily stringent.

The following are links to information relating to Hong Kong prisons:


A special commission of inquiry, appointed after the 1995 death of a prominent businessman in India's high-security Tihar Central Jail, reported in September 1997 that the 10,000 inmates held in that institution endured serious health hazards, including overcrowding, "appalling" sanitary facilities, and a shortage of medical staff.

The following articles relate to India's prisons:

Other sources of information:


Prison conditions in Japan continued to be a major issue during 1997. On August 29, Bahman Daneshian Far, an Iranian prisoner detained in Fuchu prison, filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government for discrimination and physical abuse. He claimed that prison officials had made derogatory remarks about Iranians and when he protested, he was beaten, kicked repeatedly in the groin, placed in solitary confinement, and punished by being forced to wear leather handcuffs which the guards could tighten to cause pain. The lawsuit is only the second brought by a foreign prisoner in Fuchu.

At its meeting in August 1997 in Geneva, the U.N. Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination decided not to recommend that the Human Rights Commission take up Japanese prison conditions under a confidential review procedure. The subcommission did convey concerns about the issue to the Japanese government, however.

Sketches of prison life by Hiroshi Nonaka, a former inmate of Fuchu Prison, give a sense of the conditions.

The following are links to information relating to prisons in Japan:


The following links provide information on Malaysian prisons:


The Pakistan Prisons Act of 1894 and the Prison Rules of Pakistan, both relics from the colonial era, permit the use of whipping as a punishment in prisons. They also permit the use of fetters and chains as instruments of restraint and punishment under certain conditions. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, in his 1996 report on Pakistan, described the fetters used in Pakistan's prisons:

Bar fetters consist of iron rings locked around the ankles of prisoners; an iron bar is riveted to each of these iron shackles making an inverted "V". These two vertical bars are about 50 cm long and are linked at mid-thigh level by an iron ring which the prisoner must hold or which is connected to a rope or chain around the waist. The rods are of a standard length and, thus, men who are not of average height may suffer when the bars are too long or too short for them, thereby adding to the normal discomfort experienced in wearing bar fetters. The iron bars are about 1.2 cm in diameter and weigh, together with the ankle shackles, around 4 kg. Cross fetters are iron bars about 50 cm in length attached in addition to bar fetters and placed between the iron rings around the ankles keeping the prisoners' legs permanently apart at the bar's length.

The following link provides information on prisons in Pakistan:


In her 1999 report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions expressed concern about reports that eight prisoners were killed by the Philippine National Police in connection with prison riots. She noted: "It is alleged that several of the prisoners were shot dead after they had been wounded and were lying on the floor."


The following link provides information relating to Singapore's prisons:


The following link provides information relating to South Korean prisons:


The following links provide information on prisons in Taiwan:


The following link provides information relating to prisons in Thailand:

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