Announcement of the Establishment of the China Anti-Torture Alliance
February 16, 2017
A CHINESE FARMER DEPICTS THE TORTURE HE WAS SUBJECTED TO. HUFFINGTON POST HAS MORE IN-DEPTH REPORTING ON THE SAME STORY. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES
Torture has long been a chronic disease plaguing China’s judicial system. It is not only that nearly every case of judicial injustice in China is attended by torture, but that torture is much more widely applied than merely as a means of extracting a confession during the criminal investigation process. It’s often used as a form of humiliation, a torment of the flesh and the spirit simultaneously, with an array of methods that are unrestrained and completely unscrupulous. The goal is to have the captive or internee surrender their minds to the authorities, and so prisons and extra-judicial detention facilities — like Legal Education Bases (or centers), brainwashing classes, and shuanggui facilities — make widespread use of torture. Torture aimed to humiliate is used in a particularly concentrated way on prisoners of conscience.
In particular since the 709 arrests in July 2015, human rights lawyers and defenders have been held in “residential surveillance at a designated location,” the essence of which is identical to forced disappearances. The ad hoc nature of these internment facilities, on top of denial of access to legal counsel, has led to a rapid increase in reports of torture over the last year. When rights lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) was released on a form of bail recently, he exhibited clear symptoms of mental breakdown; news has also emerged of cruel electric baton torture applied to Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋); Wu Gan (吳淦) has also made a criminal complaint, through his lawyers, of torture suffered in custody. The human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), in particular, has narrated the details of atrocious torture he suffered through transcripts made by his legal counsel. The veracity and detail of the cruelty on display is without question, and has caused outrage inside China and abroad. Law societies and human rights groups in dozens of countries have issued denunciations, and the European Union, as well as diplomats from multiple countries stationed in China, have expressed their concern and demanded that the Chinese government conduct an immediate investigation.
What happened to our colleagues can happen to any of us, or any Chinese citizen, for that matter, hence our anxiety, grief, and rage. These human rights defenders represent the conscience of China, and yet in the 18 months of their detention, they’ve been subjected to a dozen types of torture by their own countrymen, a team of over 40 special agents who work in rotation — we simply cannot fathom it: what way is this to treat a country’s own citizens? The fact that the inhuman torture has been simply allowed to take place by the police, openly and without compunction or obstruction, begs the question: what kind of system of justice is this? What kind of political system forces humans into this depravity? What kind of political system allows these criminal torturers to act so wantonly, outside of any restriction or law?
In the face of this blatant torture, our conscience does not allow us to remain silent. We must stand up to censure it, to conquer our own fears and cowardice, and defend basic human dignity.
Together we reiterate the following articles from China’s own Constitution:
Article 33 (paragraph 3): “The State respects and preserves human rights.”
Article 35: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
Article 41: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints or charges against, or exposures of, any state organ or functionary for violation of the law or dereliction of duty, but fabrication or distortion of facts for purposes of libel or false incrimination is prohibited.”
By implication, the Chinese Constitution prohibits torture. In addition, the National People’s Congress in September 1988 ratified the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“United Nations’ Convention Against Torture”) and on November 3, 1988, that convention became effective in China.
It is thus clear that preventing and punishing torture is an unshirkable duty of the government, and a responsibility it must assume.
We believe that prohibiting torture is not only for the purpose of preventing cases of judicial injustice — it is also to grant citizens the protection of not fearing for their lives, and to accord basic dignity towards, and integrity of, their own body and minds. If, for whatever reason, torture is tolerated, then everyone in China — including police, prosecutors, judges, and currently serving or former Party and government officials — are themselves also at risk of becoming victims.
We believe that the torture of one is the torture of all, and that to strike terror in one is to strike terror in all.
We believe that every individual, including those who have truly committed crimes, should be treated with humanity and not be subject to torture. The prohibition of torture is the fundamental ground of a modern, civilized judiciary, and is a basic dividing line between civilization and barbarism.
For all these reasons, we the undersigned, on the basis of China’s Constitution, the UN Convention Against Torture, and a sense of common justice for Chinese citizens and humanity, hereby establish the “China Anti-Torture Alliance.”
The Alliance will be a community based on the aforementioned shared beliefs, without a formal organizational structure. It is open to all, without respect to nationality or other attachments, and may be joined or withdrawn from at will.
All kind and upstanding citizens inside or outside China, who cherish peace and seek to safeguard human rights, are welcome to join our ranks, and to reject torture wherever it appears. Our goal is to promote and supervise the actual implementation of the United Nation’s Convention Against Torture in China.
Those who wish to join the Alliance can express their wish to do so to any of the founders of the initiative, or by sending an email to the official electronic mail address of the Alliance. Please include your first and last name, your occupation, location, and other contact information, to facilitate contact.
February 7, 2017
Teng Biao (滕彪), lawyer, United States
Yu Wensheng (余文生), lawyer, Beijing
Liu Shihui, lawyer (刘士辉), Guangdong
Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), legal activist, United States
Editors’ note: As of now, over 800 Chinese lawyers and human rights defenders have signed to join the Alliance. Check out the signing sheet here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14jjifjhzVdSZ1IhqYTvXjlk02ithQ15PdvCgaOBB8aw/pub