Today: May 03, 2000 at 9:41:20 PDT
BEIJING (AP) -- Beatings, forced labor, bad food and poor medical treatment are common in Chinese prisons, indicating the government has failed to honor commitments to curb torture, a human rights group said today.
Human Rights in China's critical assessment came in advance of a U.N. panel meeting in Geneva on Thursday to determine if the Chinese government has implemented the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Two years ago, Beijing reported that it was making progress.
While top Chinese officials have expressed opposition to the use of torture, such policies are often not enforced at the local level. Cases of torture leading to death and disability have continued despite Beijing's commitment to comply with the treaty, New York-based Human Rights in China said.
The narrow legal definition of torture, a lack of penalties and other faults in China's patchy legal system encourage police and prison officials to rely on ill treatment, the group said.
Among 27 cases it listed was that of Zhang Lin, a labor rights advocate serving a three-year sentence in Guangdong province's No. 1 Labor Camp. Zhang, who moved to the United States in 1997, was sentenced without trial in 1998 for allegedly entering China illegally and hiring prostitutes. He has suffered beatings every few days, leaving his body covered with wounds and causing him to attempt suicide twice and stage a hunger strike.
Chinese officials were not available for comment due to a weeklong May Day holiday.
The report cited incomplete statistics showing an increase in reports of torture since 1979. The top prosecutor's office recorded about 500 cases in 1996, with the number rising as police carried out a nationwide anti-crime campaign.
China's top police officer acknowledged that law enforcement officials routinely use torture to obtain confessions, the report said. "By committing forced confessions, they have turned someone who has committed no crime into a criminal, or turned someone who committed a minor violation into a serious criminal violator, and harmed the masses terribly," it quoted Public Security Minister Jia Chunwang as saying.
The government has allowed the media to report some torture cases, though officials withhold information about cases involving political prisoners and people linked to the banned Falun Gong meditation movement.
People who have publicized sensitive torture cases have themselves been imprisoned.
Falun Gong members who reported the death in police custody of follower Zhao Jinhua were charged with violating the State Secrets Law. Zhao was arrested Sept. 27 and questioned about her links with Falun Gong. She was hospitalized in October after losing consciousness during interrogation, detained after her release for more questioning and later found beaten to death.