March 20, 2017
Eleven countries have jointly called on the Chinese government to investigate reports of torture against human rights lawyers and urged Beijing to abandon a controversial detention system that holds suspects in secret locations for months at a time.
The unusually direct criticism comes in a letter from the Chinese diplomatic missions of the signatory countries, including Canada, that expresses “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.”
The signatories call for China to end the practice of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” a Chinese form of pretrial custody for sensitive cases that allows suspects to be held for up to six months, often without families or lawyers being told where they are.
Residential surveillance amounts to “incommunicado detention in secret places, putting detainees at a high risk of torture or ill-treatment,” the letter states. China should, it says, remove all suspects from residential surveillance and repeal enabling legislation.