Annual Report: China 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: China 2011

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  • Prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who had "disappeared" while in the custody of public security officials in February 2009, remained unaccounted for after briefly resurfacing in April.
  • Chen Guangcheng, who was released from prison on 9 September, and his wife, remained under house arrest. They could not leave their home, even to seek medical care.
  • Tian Xi, who contracted HIV and hepatitis B and C through a blood transfusion in 1996 when he was nine years old, was tried on 21 September on charges of "intentionally damaging property". For years, Tian Xi had lobbied the hospital for compensation for himself and others infected through blood transfusions there. On 2 August, he lost his temper in a meeting at the hospital and knocked some items off a desk. Through a legal loophole his trial was suspended, allowing the authorities to keep him in indefinite detention.

Detention without trial

The use of illegal forms of detention expanded, including prolonged house arrest without legal grounds, detention in "black jails", "brain-washing" centres, psychiatric institutions, and unidentified "hotels". The government did not make any progress on the reform or abolition of systems of administrative detention, including Re-education through Labour, used to detain people without charge or trial. Hundreds of thousands continued to be held in such facilities.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment remained endemic in places of detention. Amnesty International received reports of deaths in custody, some of them caused by torture, in a variety of state institutions, including prisons and police detention centres. In July, new regulations were introduced to strengthen prohibitions against the use of illegal oral evidence in criminal cases, including coerced confessions. However, China’s Criminal Procedure Law had not yet been amended to explicitly prohibit the use of confessions obtained through torture and ill-treatment as evidence before the courts.

Death penalty

Statistics on death sentences and executions remained classified. However, publicly available evidence suggested that China continued to use the death penalty extensively, with thousands being executed after unfair trials. A number of cases where innocent people were sentenced to death or executed became heated topics of public debate, putting pressure on the authorities to address the issue.

Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region

The authorities failed to independently investigate the clashes of July 2009 in Urumqi city, including possible abuse of state power. People involved in the clashes continued to be sentenced after unfair trials. In March, Nur Bekri, governor of the XUAR, announced that 97 cases involving 198 individuals had been tried; however, only 26 cases involving 76 individuals were made public. The authorities continued to warn human rights lawyers against taking up these cases and in January the XUAR High People’s Court issued "guiding opinions" to the courts specifying how such trials should be conducted.

Security measures were tightened in the XUAR, including revision of the Comprehensive Management of Social Order, effective 1 February. This renewed the authorities’ commitment to "strike hard" against crime in the region, in particular crimes of "endangering state security". The authorities announced that 376 such cases had been tried in 2010 in the XUAR, up from 268 in 2008.

Freedom of expression