[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 15:17 GMT
China torture 'still widespread'
Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture for the United Nations, speaks at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, Monday, Oct. 31, 2005.
Manfred Nowak said many inmates appeared fearful
Torture remains widely in use across China, a top UN envoy has said.

Manfred Nowak, who has spent nearly two weeks in the country, added that some officials had tried to obstruct his fact-finding efforts.

Mr Nowak - the first UN rapporteur on torture allowed in the country - said abuse was declining in cities, but that "more structural reform" was needed.

Beijing outlawed torture in 1996, but human rights organisations report it is still used to extract confessions.

Mr Nowak visited detention centres in the capital Beijing, and the restive western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Torture methods cited in a statement at the end of his visit included use of electric shock batons, cigarette burns, and submersion in pits of water or sewage.

There were serious incidents of obstructing my mission
Manfred Nowak
UN rapporteur on torture
Mr Nowak spoke of one detainee forced to lie on a bed in a particular position for 85 days.

He also raised concern about psychological torture, particularly in labour camps, which he said was designed to alter the personality of the detainees.

Asked about the prevalence of torture, he answered: "I consider it on the decline, but still widespread."

Mr Nowak said the continuing use of torture was due to pressure on police officers to provide evidence in the form of confessions.


The UN official also accused Chinese officials of systematically interfering with his investigations.

He said the authorities frequently monitored his interviews with relatives of prisoners.

Prisoners in China's Fujian province
China's prison population is estimated at about 2 million

"Victims and family members were intimidated by security personnel during the visit, placed under surveillance, instructed not to meet with him [Mr Nowak] or physically prevented from meeting with him," the statement said.

While interviewing inmates, Mr Nowak said he had observed "a palpable level of fear and self-censorship".

Mr Nowak said that until major legal reforms allowed for an independent judiciary, the problem of torture could not be brought under effective control in China.

"There is much that still needs to be done, there is a need for many more structural reforms," he said.

Mr Nowak's visit came at a time when a public debate is going on in the Chinese media about the use of torture and coercion by the police.

In one recent case, a man who had been sent to prison for murdering his wife was released after she was found alive.

The man, She Xianglin, said he had been tortured into confessing to the murder, and had already served 11 years of his sentence.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing says the fact Mr Nowak was allowed to visit Chinese prisons - after a decade of failed attempts - does indicate the country's leaders are willing at the very least to acknowledge the problem.

China 'wrong killer' seeks amends
12 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
UN envoy cautious on China rights
02 Sep 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China to review death sentences
27 Sep 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese activists 'risk torture'
06 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
China torture inspection delayed
17 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific