China human rights lawyer tells of torture at hands of police

A 45-year-old human rights lawyer who has spent many years concerned with the issue of China's so-called "black jails" where citizens are subjected to human rights violations was severely beaten by guards while recently detained, it was learned by Saturday.

Tang Jitian, who was released last Sunday, told Kyodo News in Beijing of the violence he was subjected to, such as being physically assaulted at a police station in the northern province of Heilongjiang while facing such threats as having his kidneys removed alive.

Tang said he suffered serious injuries including broken ribs as a result of being subjected to fierce torture such as being punched and kicked by guards while in detention.

The black jails are a network of extralegal detention centers set up by Chinese security forces mainly to detain, without trial, petitioners seeking redress for grievances unresolved at the local level over such issues as land confiscation.

The current state of such facilities including their number is not clearly known, but international human rights groups began focusing attention on them around 2003.

Tang said that on March 20, he travelled with a group of fellow lawyers to a "legal education center" suspected to be a black jail in Heilongjiang Province in order to seek the release of citizens being detailed there.

The next morning, several policemen burst into the rooms of a hotel where Tang and the other lawyers were staying and took them away to a police station.

Tang said he resisted the interrogation there because legally established judicial procedures were not being followed. This angered the police officers, who covered his head with a black cloth and hung him from the ceiling of a room with handcuffs and rope.

He said five or six officers beat him all over his body while threatening to bury him alive and feed him to dogs if he did not cooperate.

He said one officer insisted that black jails operate within the law, and threatened him by asking, "Would you like to be sent to the brainwashing unit (of a black jail) and have a taste of terror?"

The authorities eventually decided to place Tang and another of the lawyers in "administrative detention" for 15 days from March 23 for causing harm to society by engaging in cultish activities based on their inquiries into the detention of member of religious groups not recognized by the government.

After being released, Tang said he was examined at a Beijing hospital and found to have "numerous wounds all over my body, with many of my left and right ribs broken."

"The various governments of China are not subject to monitoring by the people, and their power is increasing without limit. Even more serious human rights violations are being committed today across the country," Tang said.