News / Asia

    Activists Wary of China’s Ban on Evidence Obtained from Torture

    Guard checks handcuffs on group of prisoners in Chongqing (file photo)
    Guard checks handcuffs on group of prisoners in Chongqing (file photo)

    China has outlawed the use of torture to obtain evidence in criminal prosecutions. While rights activists welcome the news, they are concerned the move is aimed at easing public anger over a high-profile wrongful conviction case.

    The Chinese government announced the ban following national outrage over a farmer who spent a decade in prison for a murder he did not commit. Zhao Zuohai says police beat him into confessing to the murder.

    His wrongful conviction was thrown out after his supposed victim turned out to be alive. Zhao was freed and given $96,000 in compensation.

    Sune Segal, the head of communications for the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture in Copenhagen, says Zhao’s case was instrumental in changing Beijing’s policies on torture.

    “It’s a big deal that the Chinese government sends a very strong signal across the board to say that evidence obtained under torture is simply not acceptable because it’s not only confirming the illegality, it’s also giving a very strong signal that evidence obtained through torture is inherently unreliable,” Segal said.

    China does have laws banning torture, but they are not strictly enforced, and rights groups say coerced confessions are common. The new regulations explicitly invalidate court testimony given under duress, and bar evidence with unclear origins or gathered through force or intimidation.

    Death penalty cases

    Sophie Richardson, a China expert with Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC, says the laws are especially important in death penalty cases.

    “The death penalty is applied with not just alarming frequency in China but often in cases where due process has been routinely ignored,” Richardson said. “It remains entirely possible to be put to death in China for a crime you didn’t commit.”

    Rights groups say China conducts more executions than all other nations combined.

    Public relations or reform?

    Despite Beijing’s new regulations, Richardson is not convinced they will result in defendants gaining more rights. She sees the anti-torture law as mainly a gesture to quell public outrage over Zhao Zuohai’s case.

    “This is a government that is generally concerned about social stability as it understands it. And the response is not necessarily to address the root causes of the grievance but at least to do enough so that they can claim that they ought to be seen as responding to a public outcry,” Richardson said.

    Richardson says Beijing needs to take more concrete measures to show it is committed to legal reform -- like providing defendants access to their lawyers, or actually tossing evidence out of court.

    Party politics

    She says even if some authorities are committed to improving China’s rule of law, they will face obstacles within the Communist Party and the powerful Ministry of Public Security and Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

    “The party doesn’t want to essentially make itself subordinate to an independent judicial system because then it would not have all the power unto itself,” Richardson said. “I think there’s probably also enormous resistance from the public security or the national security authorities who don’t want to have to be answerable really to anybody.”

    Sune Segal, of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture, acknowledges the challenges of changing the mindset of police and judicial authorities in a country as vast as China. But he says the new regulations are important, especially the rule requiring police accused of torture to testify in court.

    Culture of impunity

    Segal points out that in a rare victory for victims’ rights, the police officers accused of torturing the wrongly convicted farmer were arrested and sentenced.

    “Impunity remains one of the biggest problems in the whole fight to eradicate torture. It is a unique exception almost that torturers are convicted for their crime,” Segal said. “Each time it happens, we welcome it because it does send a strong signal to others who torture or who might torture, ‘Don’t do it, you’re going to be held accountable.’”

    Despite China’s attempts to clean up the legal system, public frustration remains. On Tuesday, a man shot dead three judges at a court in southern Hunan province before killing himself.  Officials say he was upset with the way the court handled his divorce case.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.