China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits the physical abuse and mistreatment of detainees and forbids prison guards from coercing confessions, insulting prisoners’ dignity, and beating or encouraging others to beat prisoners. Amendments to the criminal procedure law exclude evidence, including coerced confessions obtained through illegal means, in certain categories of criminal cases. Enforcement of these legal protections continued to be lax.
Numerous former prisoners and detainees reported they were beaten, subjected to electric shock, forced to sit on stools for hours on end, hung by the wrists, deprived of sleep, force fed, forced to take medication against their will, and otherwise subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Although prison authorities abused ordinary prisoners, they reportedly singled out political and religious dissidents for particularly harsh treatment.
There were multiple reports that lawyers, law associates, and activists detained in the “709” crackdown suffered various forms of torture, abuse, or degrading treatment. The lawyers of detained blogger Wu Gan reported that authorities had severely tortured Wu because he refused to cooperate. When authorities released attorney Li Chunfu in January, he was suffering from a mental breakdown and diagnosed with schizophrenia, a condition he had never before experienced. Rights lawyer Xie Yang said in a series of statements he released in January that he was repeatedly tied up and beaten during his lengthy detention in Changsha. He said he “confessed” in his subsequent televised trial only after he was “brainwashed” as a result of the extensive torture he experienced.
In response to these reports, the government accused lawyer Jiang Tianyong of fabricating the torture accounts in coordination with the families of detained lawyers. Jiang’s family said his own cooperation with authorities during his trial broadcast online in August was a result of torture he himself had experienced while in custody.
In January, Swedish citizen Peter Dahlin shared with the Guardian his first-hand account of the torture he experienced during his 23-day detention in early 2016. Dahlin claimed he was blindfolded, deprived of sleep, questioned for hours, and not allowed to exercise. He also said he was connected to a lie detection machine during lengthy interrogations.
In June the government released new regulations on excluding illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases, banning confessions by torture and ending “forced self-incrimination.” The document, issued jointly by the Supreme Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate (prosecutor’s office), Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Justice, stated it is “illegal for police or prosecutors to extort confessions through torture, threats or cheating.”
Members of the minority Uighur ethnic group reported systematic torture and other degrading treatment by law enforcement officers and the penal system (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities). Practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement reported systematic torture more often than other groups.
The law states that psychiatric treatment and hospitalization should be “on a voluntary basis,” but it has loopholes that allow authorities and family members to commit persons to psychiatric facilities against their will and fails to provide meaningful legal protections for persons sent to psychiatric facilities. The law does not provide for the right to a lawyer and restricts a person’s right to communicate with those outside the psychiatric institutions.
According to the Legal Daily (a state-owned newspaper covering legal affairs), the Ministry of Public Security directly administered 23 high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane. While many of those committed to mental-health facilities had been convicted of murder and other violent crimes, there were also reports of activists and petitioners involuntarily subjected to psychiatric treatment for political reasons. Public security officials may commit individuals to psychiatric facilities and force treatment for “conditions” that have no basis in psychiatry. In April authorities reportedly sent Cai Yinglan to the Ezhou Special Care Hospital in Hubei after local officials accused her of “damaging society through petitioning.” She had been petitioning for payment of unpaid farming subsidies.
In January 2015 the government officially ended the long-standing practice of involuntarily harvesting the organs of executed prisoners for use in transplants. In February former health minister Huang Jiefu publicly announced that the government now had “zero tolerance” for the practice. According to government data, more than 13,000 voluntary transplants and organ donations occurred in 2016. While long criticized for the practice of using prisoner organs, many international medical professionals and credible news organizations, such as the Washington Post, began to note the government’s progress. Some Falun Gong-affiliated organizations continued to question the voluntary nature of the system, the accuracy of official statistics, and official claims about the source of organs. During the year the government further expanded its system for voluntary organ donations.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in penal institutions for both political prisoners and criminal offenders were generally harsh and often degrading.
Physical Conditions: Authorities regularly held prisoners and detainees in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation. Food often was inadequate and of poor quality, and many detainees relied on supplemental food, medicines, and warm clothing provided by relatives. Prisoners often reported sleeping on the floor because there were no beds or bedding. In many cases provisions for sanitation, ventilation, heating, lighting, and access to potable water were inadequate.
Adequate, timely medical care for prisoners remained a serious problem, despite official assurances that prisoners have the right to prompt medical treatment. Prison authorities withheld medical treatment from political prisoners.
When women’s rights activist Su Changlan was released from prison in October, she was in critical condition, requiring urgent medical care, according to Amnesty International. Her health had deteriorated over the course of her prison term. According to Radio Free Asia, Su had a heart condition and hyperthyroidism. Multiple human rights groups reported that authorities repeatedly denied her medical treatment and reportedly refused her husband’s requests to seek outside medical treatment (see section 2.a.).
Political prisoners were sometimes held with the general prison population and reported being beaten by other prisoners at the instigation of guards. Some reported being held in the same cells as death row inmates. Authorities did not allow some dissidents supplemental food, medicine, and warm clothing from relatives.
Conditions in administrative detention facilities were similar to those in prisons. Beating deaths occurred in administrative detention facilities. Detainees reported beatings, sexual assaults, lack of proper food, and limited or no access to medical care.
Administration: Authorities used alternatives to incarceration for both violent and nonviolent offenders. According to the State Council’s 2016 White Paper on Legal Rights, 2.7 million individuals participated in community correction, with an estimated 689,000 individuals in the program as of September 2016. The same source reported an annual increase of 51,000 individuals in community correction programs.
The law states that letters from a prisoner to higher authorities of the prison or to the judicial organs shall be free from examination; it was unclear to what extent the law was implemented. While authorities occasionally investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, the results were not documented in a publicly accessible manner. Many prisoners and detainees did not have reasonable access to visitors and could not engage in religious practices.
Independent Monitoring: Information about prisons and various other types of administrative and extralegal detention facilities was considered a state secret, and the government typically did not permit independent monitoring.