China says police torture likely under-reported

/ Source: Reuters

About 30 people are found to be wrongfully convicted each year in China after having confessions forced out of them by torture, though the real number may be higher, Xinhua news agency cited a senior official as saying.

“Nearly every wrongful verdict in recent years has involved illegal interrogation,” said Wang Zhenchuan, China’s deputy chief prosecutor, according to a Xinhua report.

“Illegal interrogation exists to some extent in local judicial practice,” Wang said, without elaborating. “China records some 30 cases of wrongful verdicts due to illegal interrogation each year, but the real number could be higher.”

After several scandals, widely reported in China’s state-run media, the government in March issued new rules in an effort to stop police torturing suspects.

Interrogations for serious crimes such as murder are now supposed to be recorded or videotaped, though police in May admitted that in more remote or rural areas they could not guarantee this would happen.

In recent years, China has come under pressure not only from foreign rights groups and the United Nations but also from an increasingly feisty domestic media to crack down on forced confessions and torture after several infamous cases.

Last year, China freed a man, who had spent 11 years in jail for allegedly murdering his wife, after the woman turned up alive. The man, She Xianglin, said he had confessed to the crime under torture.

In another case, the children of a Chinese butcher executed for murdering a waitress appealed his conviction after his “victim” turned up alive.

Late last year, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, said suspects in China were routinely beaten and that police were under heavy pressure to extract confessions.