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Re: Cases of Chinese Torture

To the members of the UN Committee Against Torture,

Human Rights Watch is an independent international organization that monitors human rights in more than 90 countries around the world. We write regarding the Committee’s review this month of the People’s Republic of China.

Human Rights Watch has submitted information to the Committee ahead of its pre-sessional review of China for the List of Issues and for the session. In May 2015, HRW published a 145-page report on police torture and other ill-treatment of criminal suspects in China, based on our analysis of hundreds of newly published court verdicts from across the country and interviews with 48 recent detainees, family members, lawyers, and formal officials. The report is available here:

In light of China’s forthcoming review under CAT, we wish to share a number of cases of torture with the Committee, as they illustrate many of the problems discussed in the report.  We believe they will serve as useful bases of questions for the Chinese delegation.

  1. Nian Bin (念斌)

Nian Bin, born in 1976, and originally from Fuzhou City in Fujian Province, spent eight years on death row. He was detained in August 2006, and convicted in February 2008 for “placing dangerous materials [poison].”

Nian said that during the initial police investigation of his case between August 7 and 10, 2006, police forced him to confess by jabbing him in the ribs with sharp bamboo sticks and hitting him with hammers. Throughout his eight years in detention, per detention center regulations requiring death row detainees to wear restraints at all times, Nian’s hands and feet were shackled together for 24 hours a day and he was unable to fully extend his body.

In August 2014, Nian was granted a rare exoneration on the basis of “insufficient evidence” after his family and lawyer repeatedly appealed his verdict.  His exoneration coincided with broader Chinese government pledges to reduce wrongful convictions through implementing the “exclusionary rule” to remove illegally-obtained evidence.

Since his release, Nian was diagnosed with a range of physical and psychological illnesses and disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.  He has faced significant difficulties seeking adequate compensation, treatment and accountability. He applied for compensation under the Law of State Compensation, and received 1,139,000 RMB (about US$ 179,800) for “damages to his personal liberty,” calculated on the basis of daily average wage, and “psychological harm” as a result of wrongful conviction in February 2015. But the court did not recognize many of Nian’s other claims, such as medical and rehabilitation costs, and it did not compensate Nian for the psychological damages incurred as a result of torture. The court argued that its responsibility towards Nian is limited to the judicial system’s wrongful rulings which led to his loss of liberty, but not for any damages to his health. Nian has sought a re-evaluation with the Fujian High Court, but it has twice delayed hearing the case.    

Authorities have also failed to provide him with any rehabilitation services.  In November 2014, he identified psychologists in Hong Kong willing to provide him free treatment, and that month he applied for an Exit-Entry Permit for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau in order to access that treatment.  Upon making that application, however, he was told that the Pingtan County Police Bureau had again listed him as a criminal suspect because they had found “new evidence” against him, and that they could not issue him the document. Nian has filed a lawsuit against the police; the court heard the case in April 2015, but no ruling has yet been issued.

Nian has filed complaints in December 2014 to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Fujian Provincial Procuratorate seeking accountability for the officers who tortured him, but so far has received no response.

  1. Xiao Yifei (肖疑飞)

Xiao Yifei, born in 1976, from Yongzhou City in Hunan Province, is a former government official who was held from June to July 2012 in the Chinese Communist Party’s extralegal detention system, known as “shuanggui” (双规). Xiao says he was tortured while in solitary confinement.

Xiao was out for a walk in Changsha on June 2, 2012, when cadres from the Party’s Disciplinary Commission seized him. They beat and hooded him, and took him away in hand and leg cuffs. The officials told Xiao that he had been put under “shuanggui” but did not present any official documents. Under shuanggui, most basic protections afforded under China’s criminal justice system are not available, including being given official documents about the detention or having the right to a lawyer. 

According to Xiao, his captors were trying to force him to admit to accepting bribes. His tormentors beat him with their fists and feet, wooden rods, and leather whips; they dragged him around on the ground; forced water down his nostrils; put clips on his eyelids, lips and genitals; put a handful of lit cigarettes up to his nostrils; handcuffed his hands and hung him from the window grill; and forced him to stand without rest or food while blasting cold air at him. The investigators told Xiao that his case was jointly handled by the police, the procuratorate, and the disciplinary commission; Xiao identified the two main persons who tortured him as police officers. Xiao’s case was later transferred to the formal legal system’s procuratorate, and he was released on bail in July 2012.

Xiao submitted complaints to the procuratorate and the disciplinary commission about his torture, but got no response, and officials about whom he had complained were later promoted. In March 2014, he spoke to the Associated Press about his experience.

In July 2014, Xiao was taken into custody again. Prior to his trial, he was repeatedly prevented from meeting his lawyers.  He was also pressured to dismiss the lawyers of his choice and instead hired new lawyers suggested by the authorities. He was convicted of “bribery and embezzlement” and sentenced to 13 years in prison in October 2015. Xiao is currently held in Shuangpai Detention Center in Yongzhou City, Hunan Province.

  1. Yang Jinde (杨金德)

Yang Jinde, born in 1968, is a businessman originally from Nanyang City in Henan Province.  In July 2011, he was convicted of six crimes associated with triad activities and sentenced to 20 years, which was subsequently reduced to 18 upon appeal. In October 2011, Yang told his lawyers that while he was being interrogated by Nanyang City Public Security Bureau in September 2010 he was tortured such that he was left fully paralyzed and lost his eyesight in his left eye.

During his interrogation, Yang said police officers beat him, forced him to kneel for hours, forced him to drink water infused with chili, and poked him with needles.  Police forced beer bottles into his anus, and made him sit with his fully body weight on the bottles. Police also confined him in a cage with a police dog while his hands and legs were shackled. 

According to his family and lawyers, Yang’s allegation of torture was not examined seriously during the trials in July 2010 and November 2011 in Nanyang City. Police submitted written statements denying torture instead of testifying in court, and refused to provide a copy of the video recording of the interrogations or a copy of his detention medical records.

His sister and mother, who have continued to advocate for him by petitioning higher authorities, have been repeatedly detained by officials.  In July 2015, Yang’s sister, Yang Jinfen (杨金芬), was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for petitioning about her brother’s case.

Yang Jinde, who is being held in Henan Provincial No.2 Prison, has reportedly not been given any medical treatment for injuries sustained during torture and has repeatedly been barred from meeting with his family.


  1. Human Rights Lawyers in Enforced Disappearance

Since July 10, 2015, 233 human rights lawyers and activists have been taken into custody across the country as authorities have accused them of being involved with the activism of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm. While most of the 233 have been released after being threatened for supporting the firm, 36 remain in custody. Of those, four have been criminally detained, 25 have been placed under “designated residential surveillance,” three have been placed under other forms of police custody and four have disappeared.

Among these 36 still detained, 33 are held incommunicado, leaving them vulnerable to torture and other abuses. Police have not informed the families of the detainees of their whereabouts, nor given them access to lawyers. A full list of these individuals can be found here.

We hope this will be useful to you as begin China’s review, and that the Committee will ask the Chinese delegation about these cases.


Sophie Richardson
China Director
Human Rights Watch


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