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Rights Groups Claim Torture Pervasive in China


Human rights activists accuse China of hiding behind the country's so-called State Secrets Law for not complying with U.N. requests to provide information on the number of people tortured, detained, disappeared and summarily executed. The U.N. Committee against Torture is examining China's compliance with the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The human rights activists say under China's State Secrets Law, no one is allowed to divulge information on alleged cases of torture. They say family members and lawyers also are intimidated and threatened with reprisals if they disclose any specific details.

Executive Director of the New York based group Human Rights in China, Sharon Hom, says torture is pervasive in different kinds of institutions, not just in prisons. And, this also makes it difficult to get numbers.

She says people are detained in so-called black houses, custody houses and psychiatric hospitals. She says official government statistics show that hundreds of thousands of people are kept in labor re-education camps.

She says people are kept in these facilities for long periods of time. They receive no independent review of their cases and have no access to council.

"It is not just the numbers, it is that the situation and the institutions that are holding people have no protections," said Sharon Hom. "So, that we do not even know what is inside the black houses, for example. So, you can imagine that in the prisons where we do have cases documented, imagine in institutions where you cannot even get in. So, we are very concerned about exactly the question of not only what we know, but what we do not know and what is happening to people in those institutions."

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Tibet says China's military crackdown on a peaceful demonstration March 10th in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, resulted in 200 deaths, thousands injured and more than 6,700 people arrested or disappeared.

President of the Tibetan U.N. Advocacy Group, Ngawang Choephel, says the Tibetan Center has submitted a list of 800 detainees to the U.N. Committee Against Torture.

"According to their analysis and that of other organizations, around 100* Tibetans have died as a result of torture since China ratified the Convention in 1988," said Ngawang Choephel. "And, this is before the Tibetan uprising. And, now, following the Tibetan uprising, again we see torture cases emerging-more and more cases."

Tibetan groups are urging the U.N. Committee to support the call by the Committee on the Rights of the Child that an independent body be given access to visit the Panchen Lama and his family members.

The Panchen Lama disappeared in 1995 when he was six years old and has not been seen or heard of since.

The World Uyghur Congress has submitted a list of 84 political prisoners to the U.N. Committee. It says many of these people have been tortured and some have been held for years without charge. It is appealing for clarification of their cases.

* - figure originally given as 1,000, but corrected at the request of Ngawang Choephel

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