BEIJING -- A United Nations committee issued a report yesterday that finds China at fault for an array of practices that contribute to torture.
The five-page report by the UN Committee Against Torture concluded a regular session monitoring China's compliance with an international treaty that outlaws torture. The panel said that while China has made progress in some areas of legal reform, it continues to condone practices that can lead directly to police abuse.
The carefully worded document came after hearings last week at which committee members grilled China on its record of police brutality. The committee, which usually looks at systemic problems leading to torture, such as lack of police training, took the unusual step of bringing up a specific case -- that of Chen Zixiu, who was reportedly beaten to death in an unofficial police cell earlier this year. Her case was the subject of a page one Wall Street Journal article last month.
Chinese delegates rebutted the charges before the committee that Ms. Chen had died in police custody, saying she had died of a heart attack.
Although yesterday's final report did not bring up Ms. Chen's case, it noted that "reforms are not implemented uniformly and equally in all parts of China," a reference to the excessive zeal sometimes used by police officers in forcing confessions from prisoners.
Ms. Chen reportedly died after government employees beat her for refusing to renounce her belief in Falun Dafa, an exercise and meditation regime that the government has banned as a dangerous cult that fleeces naive participants and practices mind control.
The panel also recommended that prisoners have a right to a lawyer. They must now ask for permission to see one, and many Falun Dafa detainees say they have been refused.
One of the strongest recommendations is that China "consider abolishing,in accordance with relevant international standards, all forms of administrative detention," a form of imprisonment that doesn't require filing of charges, legal hearings or trials, and can be extended almost indefinitely. Ms. Chen's daughter was held for 15 days in such detention for "disturbing social order" by publicizing her view that her mother died of torture.
The committee noted some progress made in the nation's legal system, such as an assurance from China that the torture treaty is legally binding on its law-enforcement and judicial organs. It also said China had tried to introduce fair trials for prisoners being considered for "re-education through labor," one of the harshest punishments in China.
Although the UN has no direct way to enforce the treaty, the periodic monitoring holds China to unusual scrutiny.