- Title: Chinese targeting own party with detention centres - report
- Date: 6th December 2016
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (DECEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) AUDIENCE WATCHING VIDEO
- Embargoed: 21st December 2016 09:34
- Keywords: China rights party detention centres party members communist anti corruption crackdown
- Location: HONG KONG/UNKNOWN LOCATION, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG/UNKNOWN LOCATION, CHINA
- Country: China
- Reuters ID: LVA0035BQWDVP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The corruption crackdown ordered by Chinese President Xi Jinping is reliant on a secret system of detentions and torture beyond the reach of the formal Chinese criminal justice system, a U.S.-based human rights group said in a report on Tuesday (December 6).
China director of Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, presented the study in Hong Kong, calling for the abolition of the system known as shuanggui, through which it alleges that confessions from Communist Party members are coerced.
"I think many people, even China watchers, who are accustomed to seeing the State and the Party so closely interwoven, don't realize that this system exists. So we wanted to illustrate how it actually functions and why. But we also wanted to talk about the abuses that people suffer in this system. That they are isolated and held incommunicado. That they are beaten and subjected to sleep deprivation. And also ultimately wanted to look how it erodes rather than enhances the anti-corruption campaign which is one of President Xi Jinping's signature initiatives," said Richardson.
President Xi Jinping came to power four years ago vowing to launch a campaign to root out deeply ingrained corruption, warning that the problem had grown so bad it threatened the ruling Communist Party's grip on power.
The crackdown has targeted a broad range of high ranking officials, from various ministry chiefs to military brass and former judges, as well as numerous bosses of state-owned firms.
The Chinese government has acknowledged there is a problem with torture in its legal system and has tried repeatedly to crack down on it, most recently in October.
The report details disappearances and extensive use of torture, including deprivation of sleep, water and food, as well as beatings.
"Well there is a long history of arbitrarily detaining people, whether it's, when you go back to the earliest days of the Communist Party or whether you are talking about the re-education through labour, but I think the fact that it's in such heavy use now at a time when senior leaders go out in public regularly and talk about the strength of the rule of law and the robustness of the Chinese judicial system, I think it raises a lot of questions as to why these are carried out through the shuanggui system rather than directly referred into the criminal justice," she said.
China's graft-busting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
Human Rights Watch says the 102-page report is the first on the secretive shuanggui system to be based on interviews with former detainees and their family.
A video interview with the wife of a detained official was shown at the launch of the report.
She said her husband was beaten and forced to sit in stress positions for extensive periods, leaving him with festering wounds until he confessed to bribery.
"But I think some of the individuals who suffered this and particularly their family members, as well as some of their lawyers, I think feel that the moment may be right for making a case, and we agree with this, that shuanggui should be abolished. If there is credible evidence that people have broken the law, take it through the regular legal system, where people have, at least on paper, some rights to a fair trial and a defense. None of that exists in shuanggui," she said.
The report included 21 interviews with four former detainees, analysed 38 court verdicts and 35 detailed detainee accounts from 200 Chinese media reports.
China's shuanggui, literally "double set", is an internal party investigative technique under which the use of force is technically forbidden. But it is condoned in party disciplinary regulations as being necessary when evidence is scant or there is a risk of collusion, evidence tampering or flight.
The report said that shuanggui "not only facilitates serious human rights abuses, it depends on them". The threat of being subjected to the system "strikes fear in the Party members regardless of their position," it said.
The practice remains controversial within China's legal community where many see it as unconstitutional. Some argue it is a tool to carry out inter-factional purges within the party.
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