BEIJING (AP) – Three police officers and four other people helping them have been convicted of torturing suspects to obtain confessions, China’s official state news agency reported, in a rare example of a prosecution of the practice.
One of the cases resulted in the death of a man after he had been tortured with electric shocks and hit on the head and face with a shoe, Xinhua News Agency said Sunday. Mustard oil was poured into suspects’ mouths in other forms of torture, it said.
The seven cases happened in March 2013 at the Daowai district police sub-bureau in Harbin city in China’s northeast. Three police officers and four people hired by police to help with the investigation were convicted on an unspecified date and given prison sentences of up to 2 1/2 years.
Chinese authorities have said that the problem of coerced confessions and torture has been effectively addressed by new measures introduced in the last five years, including video recording of interrogations and formalizing a rule that said judges should reject evidence obtained through torture.
In April, Zhao Chunguang, a national official overseeing police detention facilities, said there had not been a single case of torture used to coerce a confession at any detention center for the past five years.
Contradicting that, Xinhua’s report said Harbin Intermediate People’s Court heard appeals Aug 29 by four of the seven.
Xinhua said the deceased man, identified by his surname, Liang, was detained by police on March 24 last year along with another man on suspicion of selling drugs. One of the police officers, Cheng Xiaowei, along with two people who weren’t police officers, Pan Yongquan and Li Yingbin, gave him electric shocks, and hit him in the face and head with a shoe, after which he died.
In the only other case Xinhua gave details on, a man with the surname Zhai, was arrested on suspicion of selling drugs on March 7, 2013. Zhai testified that Cheng, Pan and Li Chunlong, another civilian, handcuffed him to an iron chair and tied wires from an old-fashioned telephone to his toes and started winding the phone, giving him electric shocks, Xinhua said.
Xinhua said that according to Chinese law, when suspects are being interrogated, torture is prohibited, at least two interrogators must be present and no non-police personnel are allowed. It said the Harbin cases “reflect the chaos in the process of law enforcement and severely hurts the public’s trust in the judicial authority.”
According to Chinese law, the maximum penalty for using torture to extract a confession is three years’ imprisonment, rising to 10 years if severe or disabling injuries have been caused and a potential death penalty if death is caused.
Hong Daode, a criminal law professor at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said: “It looks like the sentences given by the court are too lenient … and it will set a bad example for future torture cases.”