China torture condemned by UN rights watchdog

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard underneath a surveillance camera at an entrance to the Number Two Detention Centre in Beijing Image copyright AP
Image caption Criminal justice reforms introduced in 2010 have not ended the use of torture, the committee found

A UN watchdog has urged China to end the rampant use of torture in its prisons and close all secret jails.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture also called for a halt to a crackdown on lawyers and activists.

It issued its report after questioning a large Chinese government delegation as part of a two-day hearing.

The report gives Beijing one year to report back on progress made in implementing key areas of the UN Convention against Torture.

"The Committee remains seriously concerned over consistent reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, which overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions," the committee said.

At the hearing to review China's record on torture, held for the first time since 2008, China denied it held political prisoners and said torture was banned, to derision from dissidents.

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Media captionConcern for China human rights lawyers

The committee, made up of 10 independent experts, said 200 lawyers have been rounded up in China since July, of which at least 25 remain in detention.

It also voiced alarm over the high number of deaths in custody.

When one committee member voiced concern over the use of interrogation chairs, in which prisoners are forced into painful postures for hours on end, the Chinese delegation insisted they were needed to keep detainees from injuring themselves, the report said. They also denied the existence of secret detention facilities.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying defended China's record in a daily news briefing, saying "in recent years China has been promoting the rule of law and has made great efforts in all regards, including on opposing torture".

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