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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

China and torture of prisoners: Holiday announced!

China Human Rights:Uygur prisoners

"China announced a campaign to weed out government officials who torture and maltreat prisoners, the latest in a string of moves apparently aimed at the United States over the abuse of Iraqi inmates. "

I resolutely promised myself that I would not be drawn into the fray that is the Iraqi Prisoner issue. I have my opinions, like everyone I suppose, but there is just so much a person can get his head around. If you start going off chasing every apparent human-rights abuse in the world you would really end up a mess.

Having said that I thought China would limit herself to a knowing wink! wink! nudge! nudge! as it concerns America and the predicament she currently faces. (Some times silence can earn some chips for latter cashing at the diplomatic gming tables). But China is China and one finds it extremely hard to predict just how she will act in any given circumstance.

I have to quote Winston Churchill here on the Soviets because I see it just the same way with the Chinese

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interests."

China's National interests have obviously seen an opportunity to do some serious point scoring against the U.S. over the Iraqi prisoner situation by announcing at this very opportune time how they will closely monitor "torture" as a tool used by some officials within China. They had obviously hoped to juxtapose this new found morality with the seeming lack of same on behalf of the United States.

But what a way to do it.

Follow me here if you can as I go through a press release from the Supreme People's Procuratorate

The Supreme People's Procuratorate said it would investigate and punish anyone who "commits crimes connected with infringement of human rights", the China Youth Daily, a leading government-controlled newspaper, reported.

That in itself is ok isn't it? The supreme legal body will investigate anyone who does such inhumane deeds. One of course would have expected that the supreme judicial body of any reasonable country would, by it's very mandate, have been doing that already but, as Winston said about Russia and which is no less true of China, she is a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" So, at this juncture and for arguments sake, let's just say the sentiment is there and all is well and fine.

We move on...

Following on with highly laudable sentiments that would do any humanitarian proud the vice-general procurator Wang Zhenchuan said that this campaign he was announcing

would focus on five key human rights areas including illegal detention, torture and maltreatment of prisoners, and malpractices that cause serious losses of people's lives and property.

Excellent! We are really getting some place aren't we? Crackdowns, focus on human rights and malpractices! Amnesty International could not have come up with better Google like keywords.

They even get to fit in their new found doctrine of mea culpa. Just like every young boy learns at a young age when mum is looking for who ate all the biscuits (cookies): get in first and, with a look and sound of sincere contriteness, admit

"I can not tell a lie it was I who ate all the biscuits but Mum I have seen the light!"

It seems to work very well in saving some credibility forthe future.

In an unusually frank admission, the Procuratorial Daily said 1,064 cases of human rights violations by officials were carried out last year, largely illegal detention and police extorting confessions through torture. It said 66 people died or were injured in these cases, without going into details.

Again excellent! They truly seem to be learning the western art of political "spin".

Of course the numbers may be just a tad off. With a prison population of around 1,549,000, 1,064 cases of human rights violations seems a touch optimistic even for the best of societies. The Falun Gong group on it's own for example claim they have verified 25 deaths for March 2004 alone and believe actual deaths could be five or ten times higher.(please note some photos at this website are graphic)

Putting that small point aside, because numbers are always just a tad off in China, where are we to this stage of proceedings? China looking pretty?

Let's summarise

Well, China has

  • Said all the right things as to what they are planning to do and why
  • Timed the statement perfectly for maximum effect
  • Established that, whilst courageously and openly admitting some small blemishes in the past, they have recognised the importance of the humane and correct treatment of prisoners (which by inference the U.S has not), and
  • in doing so set themselves up on what some would think was unassailable high moral ground



As China is wont to do time and time again they have to go and shoot themselves in the foot (thank God the EU will not sell them any bullets)

They end by going and saying something that even an "apprentice spin doctor" would never say. A clasic that no doubt will be taught in "Spin school" for years to come as how not to end a press statement of this type:

"This special movement will last one year, and starts right now,"

One Year? After that what? Back from holidays and back to work??

Ahh! How to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

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