Amnesty International's No End in Sight: Torture and Forced Confessions in China interviews 37 Chinese lawyers and analyzes 590 court decisions in the process of documenting the routine torture of human rights lawyers in China.
Although China is a member of the UN Convention Against Torture and despite the explicit ban on torture in Chinese law, torture has been the go-to tool of President Xi Jinping's recent crackdown on human-rights lawyers, which saw the arrest of about 250 human rights lawyers last summer.
Despite Beijing's official denials of torture, its own data shows that 1,500 complaints of torture were made over the past seven years, with only 279 convictions. What's more, official data shows that when defendants on trial repudiate their confessions on the basis that they were extracted by torture, the courts almost never suppress the confessions — essentially a free pass to the all-powerful Chinese police to go on practicing torture to secure convictions.
A fundamental problem remains in that the public security, China's police authority, still wields too
much power within the judicial system and that as a result few perpetrators of torture are held to
account. But in the short and medium term, the deep rooted practices of the criminal justice system
may prove the greatest hurdle in authorities' efforts to eradicate the practice of extracting forced
"confessions". The system still overly relies on "confessions" as the basis of most convictions,
providing an almost irresistible incentive for law enforcement agencies to obtain them by any means
necessary. This, in turn, considerably increases the risk of miscarriages of justice and wrongful
Lawyers are integral to any serious effort to curb torture, especially in the criminal justice system.
They can play a critical role in preventing torture if they are allowed to meet their clients in detention.
Lawyers can be a driving force to ensure that fair trial standards are met and they are almost
indispensable for individuals to be able to seek redress for human rights violations.
Despite their weak institutional status—there are no independent lawyers' organizations in China—
Chinese lawyers have been at the forefront of efforts to raise claims of torture in court and to seek
accountability for torture and other ill-treatment. Yet, they face extraordinary difficulties operating in
the Chinese criminal justice system, particularly when they take on cases involving government
accountability and sensitive issues such as torture, but also corruption, religious freedom and freedom
of expression. Worse still, since 2006 the most active human rights lawyers have increasingly become
targets of government crackdowns, and face disbarment and harassment at the hands of authorities.
As this report details, a number of them have themselves become victims of torture.
No End in Sight: Torture and Forced Confessions in China [Amnesty International]
Report: Torture is routinely used in China to obtain confessions and silence human-rights lawyers [Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider]