CHRD Urges China to End Torture of Detained Human Rights Activist

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Heilongjiang, August 22, 2008) – The Chinese authorities must stop the torture and inhuman treatment of Liu Jie (刘杰), a human rights defender currently serving 18 months of Re-education through Labor (RTL), said Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Since Aug. 15, Liu has been subjected to a form of tortured called “Tiger Bench”.

“Authorities hope that such a blatant case of torture would evade the world’s radar when it’s transfixed on the Olympics. The international community must not let the responsible officials get away with this—it must hold China to its promise to make torture a criminal offence when it ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988”, said CHRD researcher Chen Ming.

On August 15, Liu was beaten by a guard at the RTL camp when she confronted the guard about the mistreatment of a fellow detainee. During the beating, Liu pushed the guard in an act of self-defense. The RTL camp then accused Liu of attacking its staff, and as punishment, Liu has been forced to sit on a “Tiger Bench”– the torture victim is made to sit upright on a long bench, her hands tied behind her back. Her thighs are fastened with a rope to the bench while her feet are raised off the floor by bricks placed under her feet. This puts extreme strain on the knees and is a very painful form of torture, especially for an extended period of time.

This is not the first time Liu was tortured at Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Center, where she is currently held. On May 22, Liu was forced to sit on a “Tiger Bench” for seven consecutive days.[1] Liu was tortured for protesting against the harsh working conditions in Qiqihar RTL camp, from where she was transferred to Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Center together with a group of 29 detainees who also participated in the protest.

Ms. Liu is in very poor health. Liu suffers from heart disease, Cholecystitis and a severe eye illness. According to a doctor who examined her on December 20, 2007, Liu will go blind if she does not receive proper treatment immediately. The treatment is unavailable in Heilongjiang Province, so she must be sent to Beijing. However, the authorities have not responded to her and her family’s repeated requests for release for medical treatment eight months after the diagnosis was made. Despite being seriously ill, Liu was forced to work over 14 hours between March and May at Qiqihar RTL camp and twice forced to sit at a “Tiger Bench” at Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Center.


CHRD calls on the Chinese government, which ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988, to hold accountable those officials responsible for torturing Liu and to ensure that Liu is not subjected to further torture or other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment.

CHRD urges the UN Committee against Torture, which is currently reviewing China’s report on its implementation of the Convention against Torture, and the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to ask the government about reports of Liu’s torture.

CHRD reiterates its call for Liu‘s immediate and unconditional release. CHRD believes that Liu has been detained solely for peaceful expression of opinion and organizing fellow citizens to voice their concerns and defend their human rights. The authorities have abused Liu‘s rights to freedom of expression and of association guaranteed in, respectively, Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed. These rights are also enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. The right to defend human rights is guaranteed in the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders, which China endorsed in 1999.


Liu is from Beian City in Heilongjiang Province. In the early 1990s, Liu signed a contract with a state-run farm in Heilongjiang Province to take over a dairy business. In 1997, after Liu‘s family had turned the dairy into a profitable business, the local government broke the contract and repossessed the dairy. After having exhausted all legal avenues to reclaim the farm, she began petitioning the central government.

Since 2003, Liu has annually organized petitioners to submit open letters advocating legal and political reforms. On October 8, 2007, Liu released a public letter signed by 12,150 petitioners calling on leaders at the 17th Party Congress to reform. Three days later, Liu was seized by the Beijing Police and sent back for detention in Beian City. During her detention, Beian City Public Security Bureau (PSB) sent her case to the Procuratorate but the latter refused to prosecute her due to lack of evidence. Liu was then sent to 18 months of RTL for “Instigating trouble and disturbing social order” on November 12, 2007.

For more information, please see:

Incarcerated Human Rights Defender Liu Jie Tortured (June 12, 2008)
Human Rights Defender Liu Jie‘s Re-education through Labor Decision Upheld (February 22, 2008)
Human Rights Defender Liu Jie Denied Treatment for Eye Illness at RTL Camp (December 28, 2007)
Human Rights Defender Liu Jie Sentenced to Re-Education through Labor (November 12, 2007)
Police Detain Organizers of Open Letter to 17th Party Congress
(October 23, 2007)

[1] Corrections: Liu Jie was transferred from Qiqihaer RTL camp to Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Center on May 17, 2008, and she was subjected to “Tiger Bench” for five days between May 17 and 22. The dates given here, that Liu was transferred on May 22 and that she was subjected to “Tiger Bench” for seven days were incorrect.

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