China has been accused of regularly torturing prisoners in a remarkable and candid submission to the United Nations by a human rights group.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of lawyers, academics and activists from round the country, has grown in the shadows of state suppression in the last two years.
Its survival is a token of the courage of its members, who have been harassed, imprisoned and beaten as they taken up difficult cases and attempt to promote legal reform.
“Twenty years after China ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988, all are routinely practiced by government personnel,” said the submission. It was just one of a number being put before a two-day hearing by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva.
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It remains unclear whether the group’s survival so far is in spite of government attempts to target individual members, or because Beijing is bowing to international pressure to allow more space for home-grown activism.
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Members are also careful to work within the letter of the Chinese law and constitution when promoting their causes.
A number of activists were arrested and jailed in advance of the Olympic Games, including some with links to the group such as Hu Jia, who was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought last month.