Torture, forced confessions and abuse still 'rampant' in China

Amnesty International uncovers use of medieval instruments, including spiked rods and torture chairs

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(Image credit: Feng Li/Getty Images)

Political activists and their lawyers are being routinely tortured by authorities in China, according to an investigation by Amnesty International.

The new report, based on interviews with dozens of human rights lawyers, contains shocking details of arbitrary detention, abuse and forced confessions.

Researchers discovered that a range of medieval torture instruments were being employed, including spiked rods and electric batons. One device commonly used is known as a Tiger Bench.

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Using the torture device, a detainee's body is tightly strapped to bench and bricks are gradually added under the victim's feet, forcing their legs to bend backwards.

Despite torture being outlawed in China and repeated promises of judicial reform, such practices remain rampant in nearly every part of the country, warns Amnesty.

"For the police, obtaining a confession is still the easiest way to secure a conviction," said report author Patrick Poon. "In a system where even lawyers can end up being tortured by the police, what hope can ordinary defendants have?"

The foreign ministry has disputed the report's findings, insisting that "China is a country governed by the rule of law" and that the government was working to bring "fairness and justice” to all.

The investigation comes just a week before the United Nations anti-torture committee is set to review China's human rights record.

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