Distinguished Members of the Committee,
First of all, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese delegation, our greetings and respects to all the distinguished members of the Committee. The Committee has made enormous efforts and played an important role in promoting the purposes and principles of the Convention and reinforcing the global efforts to ban and prevent torture. The Chinese Government appreciates your endeavour and will continue to support the work of the Committee.
Today, I am delighted to lead the Chinese delegation and conduct dialogue with members of the Committee on China's 4th and 5th periodic reports on the implementation the Convention Against Torture. The Chinese delegation is composed of more than 30 members from relevant departments of the Central Government and the Governments of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. The fact that my delegation has representatives from so many different departments fully shows that the Chinese Government attaches great importance to the Committee and this meeting. Members of my delegation are ready to conduct constructive dialogue with Members of the Committee in a cooperative, sincere and responsible manner.
China has all along stood firm to oppose torture. Since China ratified the Convention in 1988, we have made unswerving efforts to improve our work in legislative, law enforcement and judicial areas, so as to ban, prevent and punish torture of all forms more effectively. The Chinese Government has earnestly fulfilled its reporting obligation under the Convention. The combined 4th and 5th periodic reports are completed after extensively soliciting opinions from state and government departments and the related NGOs. The combined report, prepared under the Committee's General Guidelines Regarding the Form and Contents of the Periodic Report, has followed the sequence of articles of the Convention and described in details China's new measures and new progress in implementing the Convention since the submission of the 3rd periodic report in 1999. It also shows that the Chinese Government has carefully considered and adopted suggestions put forward by the Committee in its concluding observations of the consideration of China's 3rd periodic report.
In late June this year, after receiving the Committee's list of issues to be taken up at the consideration, the Chinese Government immediately started to collect a wide spectrum of information and materials and submitted a detailed written reply within a fairly short period of time.
In recent years, China has pursued the scientific outlook on development with people's interests at its core. While making continued efforts to develop economy and raise people's living standard, we remain committed to promoting democratic legal construction, establishing the concept of rule of law, safeguarding and advancing various human rights, with a view to building a more harmonious society. When China's Constitution was amended in 2004, the principle of "respect for and prevention of human rights" was added. The guidelines of China's 11th five-year plan for national economic and social development (2006-2010) issued in March 2006 reaffirmed this principle and, for the first time, set forth the clear objective of promoting all-round development of human rights in such national guidance document. To safeguard and promote human rights has become an important part of national development strategy and a concept widely accepted. Under such circumstances, legislative, administrative and judicial organs at all levels continue to adopt effective measures to reform and improve relevant mechanisms, regulate law enforcement and judicial behaviours, and reinforce supervision and control to ensure fair law enforcement and judicial acts. New progress has been made in banning and preventing torture. Now I would like to take this opportunity to give you a general picture in this area.
First, in recent years, China has adhered to the principle of putting people's interests first and protecting human rights in its legislative work. This has contributed greatly to preventing and curbing torture. Here are two examples:
The Law on Administrative Punishments for Public Order and Security
To impose punishments for public order and security violations is an administrative power that has a fairly direct and wide influence on citizens' rights and interests. In order to better prevent and ban torture in public security administration cases, and taking into account the Committee's recommendation of strengthening prevention and punishment of torture in non-judicial areas, The Law on Administrative Punishments for Public Order and Security was adopted on August 28, 2005 by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The Law stipulates in explicit terms that in dealing with public order and security cases and in imposing administrative punishments, the public security organs shall adhere to the basic principles of respect for and guarantee of human rights, protection of citizens' dignity, and openness and impartiality. In its provisions, the Law has raised the level of regulation, control and supervision of law enforcement acts taken by public security organs, and strengthened protection of citizens' legitimate rights and interests, including such clear provisions as "any proof gathered by illegal means shall not be the basis for punishment, such as making an interrogation by torture or extorting a confession from the interrogated, or threatening, enticing or cheating the interrogated." This has, for the first time, established in the form of national law the exclusion rule of illegal evidence. This explicitly prohibits punishments based only on the statements of the violators of public security administration and no other evidence. The Law also strictly restricts the length of interrogation after the summons, which may not last more than eight hours at most; and where the circumstances are complicated, the time for interrogation may not exceed twenty four hours. The Law also provides that administrative detention shall not be imposed on those who have not yet reached age 16, or those who have already reached age 16 but have not yet reached age 18 and this is their first offence against administration of public order, or those who are aged 70 or above, or pregnant women and women who breast feed their infants of less than one year old. The combined administrative detention shall not be longer than 20 days. In particular, the Law has a chapter exclusively for law enforcement supervision, detailing basic behaviour standard for the policemen in handling cases and the general rules for human rights protection, prohibiting such torture and inhuman behaviours as beating, scolding, maltreating or insulting those who have offended against the administration of public order. In case of failure, the policemen shall be subject to, according to seriousness of each case, administrative sanction or criminal liabilities. This Law has played an important role in promoting fair and civilized law enforcement by people's police, and reduce and curb torture in non-judicial areas.
Amendment of the Law on Lawyers
In October 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted the amended Law on Lawyers. The amended Law has accepted suggestions of the Committee, emphasized the principle of human rights protection, and enhanced the coordination and unity between effective fight against crimes and full protection of human rights. Based on its original structure, the Law has clear provisions on the lawyers' right to meet with criminal suspects during investigation, to exchange views with criminal suspects and defendants, to investigate, collect evidence and defend, and on lawyers' immunity privilege. This helps ensure effective fulfillment of lawyers responsibilities at various stages of criminal procedure, protection of legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects and defendants, control of judicial power at various stages of investigation, prosecution, trial and penalty, and prevention of torture and other inhuman treatments against citizens involved in proceedings. The Law became effective on June 1, 2008.
In addition to legislative measures, relevant Chinese departments have made focused efforts to prevent and punish torture.
The Chinese Government continues to give priority to cutting the root causes and curbing torture.
The key to prevention of torture lies in higher professionalism of law enforcement personnel. The Committee indicated at its previous consideration that the Government should continue to intensify efforts to provide law enforcement officials with training on international human rights standards. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to this. Since 2005, nation-wide campaign has been conducted within law enforcement and legislative systems to promote the concept of rule of law and protection of human rights with fairness and justice as its core value. The level of awareness and capacity of law enforcement officials has been raised in terms of civilized and standardized enforcement and protection of citizens' legitimate rights and interests. Reinforced efforts have been made by people's courts, people's procuratorates, public security organs and prison administration departments to offer professional training, and an important part of its textbooks includes the Convention Against Torture and other UN human rights protection instruments. The above Chinese departments have also carried out exchanges and cooperation with UN human rights agencies, foreign human rights organizations and specialists through discussions, seminars and training courses.
System building provides guarantee for prevention of torture. Chinese law enforcement and judicial organs have promulgated a number of new important regulations. For instance, since 2005, the Ministry of Public Security has amended the Procedural Provisions for the Handling of Administrative Cases by Public Security Organs and the Procedural Provisions for the Handling of Criminal Cases by Public Security Organs, formulated the regulations on the length of detention for criminal cases applicable to public security organs and other regulations. The Supreme People's Procuratorate has promulgated the Regulations on Standards for Filing Criminal Cases of Dereliction of Duty and Rights Infringement, and the procuratorial measures for prisons and detention facilities. The Ministry of Justice issued 2006-2010 Guidelines for People's Prison Police on Re-education Through Labour and Six Prohibitions on People's Prison Police. Preventive mechanisms have been set up and strengthened at major links of law enforcement and judicial procedures.
Supervision and control play a key role in prevention. Law enforcement and judicial departments have intensified their efforts to increase transparency of law enforcement and openness of police, procuratorate, trial and prison work, and strengthen and improve mechanisms of supervision. Since 2005, in order to clarify and fulfill the individual responsibility in law enforcement, the State Council has promoted nation-wide administrative law enforcement responsibility system. Since 2006, the Ministry of Public Security has enhanced, step by step, nation-wide system of full video coverage of interrogation of murder cases and those involving underworld organizations. Public security organs continue the practice of law enforcement evaluation and use the method of "veto with one vote" in annual evaluation in cases of death or serious injury caused by torture, beating, physical punishment, maltreatment, and misuse of firearms. If a public security organ receive such a veto in its annual evaluation, it means its performance is below standard. If it gets voted twice, its leader shall resign or be removed from the post. The Supreme People's Court has promoted nation-wide second trial of cases involving death sentence, and will gradually adopt full video coverage of interrogation. Till the end of 2007, the procuratorial organs established their agencies in 98% of prisons and detention facilities, including 77 procuratorates in large prisons or prison concentrated areas, and 3,300 offices in medium prisons and detention facilities. At present, 12,000 people from procuratorate organs at different levels are working in this field, and 8,800 of them are on a fairly permanent and regular basis. The appointment system is practiced in many prisons, through which prisoners and detainees have the right to have appointed face-to-face meetings with procurators to reflect problems and raise complaints.
Public participation is an important part of supervision and control. Law enforcement and judicial organs at all levels have actively accepted supervision from all social sectors, established hotlines and letter boxes, strengthened exchanges with NGOs to listen to their views and suggestions, and attached importance to concerns and calls expressed by people through media and Internet. Problems thus reflected are being investigated and solved. The departments concerned have also established spokesman system to give information to wider publicity. Another system is to have specially invited supervisors from national people's congress, political consultative conference, social organization and media. The Ministry of Public Security now has 113 such supervisors, and the public security organs above the county level have over 200,000 invited supervisors. Thanks to information supplied by people and media, judicial organs are able to discover and handle some torture cases in a timely manner.
Punishment Against Torture
It is clearly stipulated in the Convention Against Torture and the relevant Chinese laws that torture of various forms must be punished in a timely and resolute manner. Upon receiving complaints about violation of law and torture against citizens, the departments concerned always conduct serious investigations. If proved to be true, it will be handled according to law. If it is of criminal nature, criminal responsibility will be sought. The Regulations on the Punishment of Civil Servants of Administrative Organs issued in 2007 stipulate clearly that infringing on the personal rights of citizens by assault and battery, physical punishment or unlawful imprisonment shall be given a demerit or the punishment of expulsion according to the seriousness of the circumstances.
On the basis of the Regulations on Investigation of Responsibilities for Law Enforcement Errors Committed by People's Police in Public Security Organs, the Regulations on the Work of Internal Supervision of Law Enforcement in the Public Security Organs, and other relevant regulations, a fairly complete law enforcement supervision system has been established among public security organs. From 2005 to 2007, 137 public security policemen received administrative and disciplinary punishment because of extorting confessions by torture and 48 because of mistreatment of detainees.
In July 2006, the Supreme People's Procuratorate issued the Regulations on Standards for Filing Criminal Cases of Dereliction of Duty and Rights Infringement, which embodied China's new achievements in legislative and judicial areas, provided clear definition of the subject of criminal cases of dereliction of duty and rights infringement, and further clarified and specified the circumstances for filing such cases. From 2006 to 2007, China's procuratorial organs focused, in accordance with the Regulations, on public servants infringing citizens' human rights and democratic rights by abusing powers, including 160 cases involving 258 people of extortion of confessions by torture, mistreatment of detainees, and collection of evidence by violent means.
Extended detention is the hotbed of torture. Before 2003, due to the failure of some local law enforcement and judicial officials to handle their cases strictly according to law and incomplete supervisory mechanisms, there were quite a few cases of extended detention. In 2003, special nation-wide efforts were made to clear up and correct such cases with the establishment of standing mechanisms in this regard. This issue has thus been dealt with effectively, witnessing a drastic decline from 24,921 person/time in 2003 to 85 person/time in 2007. Meanwhile, based on practical needs, law enforcement and judicial departments at all levels have conducted regular reviews on law enforcement and made special control efforts to prevent extorting confessions by torture. Major progress has been made as a result of the resolute review efforts, the criminal and disciplinary punishments given to law enforcement and judicial officials with misconducts, and the serious investigation of the responsibility of supervisors.
In dealing with various torture cases, legislative organs have acted strictly according to the nature of each case, its circumstances, and provisions of the law, and given punishment accordingly. Serious punishment has been given without leniency to those who infringed others' rights on purpose and caused citizens' serious injury or even death. For example, among those typical cases of serious infringement on human rights announced by the Supreme People's Procuratorate in 2005, there is a case of extorting confession by violent means. It happened at the end of 2004 when a witness was killed by violent attack of a local policeman. The procuratorate instituted a public prosecution, and court sentenced the perpetrator to life imprisonment and life long deprivation of political rights.
Through the above efforts, torture cases have been reduced by a big margin. In 2006, there were trials of 64 cases involving 119 people of extorting confessions by torture; and in 2007, the number of such cases was reduced to 40 involving 82 people. Previously in 2003, there were 75 such cases involving 141 people; in 2004, there were 79 cases with 135 people; and in 2005, there were 70 cases with 132 people. Cases of extorting confessions by torture and ill-treatment of detainees have been kept at a low level, and in 2006 and 2007, the number of such cases and people involved is both single digit.
Complete elimination of torture requires sustained unswerving efforts. To achieve this final goal, the Chinese Government will continue to improve its legal system, reinforce its endeavour in education, prevention and punishment, and earnestly implement all provisions of the Convention, so as to make new progress in its efforts against torture. The Chinese Government is ready to conduct close cooperation and exchanges with the Committee, the international organizations and other countries, and work jointly for the realization of the purposes and objectives of the Convention.
Since the Chinese Government's resumption of exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997 and over Macao on December 20, 1999, the Convention Against Torture became applicable to the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions respectively. According to the Basic Laws of the Hong Kong SAR and the Macao SAR, the Chinese Government pursues the policy of "one country, two systems" with the Hong Kong SAR and the Macao SAR enjoying a high degree of autonomy and managing their own affairs. The implementation of the Convention in the Hong Kong SAR and the Macao SAR is compiled by the two SAR Governments respectively.
Please allow me to invite Mr. James O’Neil from the Hong Kong SAR and Mr. Jorge Costa Oliveira from the Macao SAR to deliver their speeches on their implementation of the Convention and answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.