China’s Communist Party uses beatings and threats to extract confessions from members accused of corruption, Human Rights Watch has said in a 102-page report released on December 6. It also said the detainees are being deprived of food, water and sleep.
Chinese President Xi Jinping “has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system,” said Sophie Richardson, China director for the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The group’s report claims widespread abuse within the so-called “shuanggui” branch of the Communist Party that conducts internal investigations.
According to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the system functions with no oversight from the state’s judiciary. Typically, people subjected to “shuanggui” suddenly disappear and remain missing until they confess to corruption. They are later brought to court and convicted.
Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99.9%.
HRW analysed 35 cases involving “shuanggui” for the report, basing its findings on interviews with survivors, lawyers and family members. Other sources included media accounts and court verdicts.
One Beijing-based lawyer said one of his clients was allowed an hour a sleep per day while under investigation. For the rest of the time, he was forced to balance a book on his head.
After eight days, he “confessed to everything and to whatever they said,” the lawyer said. “At that point his feet were swollen like an elephant’s and he could no longer urinate.”
Other tactics used by the “shuanggui” officers include food and water deprivation, severe beatings, forcing prisoners into stress positions for extended periods of time and threats to family members, the HRW claims.
Another suspect said he was forced to invent stories of his crimes. “They made me make it up. I had to make it up – if I didn’t, they’d beat me,” he said.
The threat of torture “strikes fear in the Party members regardless of their position,” HRW said in the report. At least 11 people have died under “shuanggui” since 2010, according to the HRW report.
According to Richardson, eradicating corruption won’t be possible so long as the “shuanggui” system exists. “The only solution is to demolish it, immediately,” she said.