China’s Highest Court Must Overturn Death Sentence Based on Confession Extracted by Torture

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- August 3, 2010) Last week, following the transfer of Fan Qihang’s (樊奇杭) case to the Supreme People’s Court for a review of his death sentence, Zhu Mingyong (朱明勇), lawyer for the alleged Chongqing mob boss, made public secret recordings in which Fan describes being subjected to months of torture at the hands of police. CHRD urges the Supreme People’s Court to overturn the death sentence against Fan, which was handed down solely on the basis of a confession extracted through torture.

“If Chinese officials wish to demonstrate that the new rules barring the use of evidence obtained through torture in criminal trials amount to more than empty words, this case is a critical test,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Judging from the evidence which Zhu Mingyong bravely provided, Fan Qihang’s case is a textbook example of the type of abuse which these new guidelines are designed to address.”[1]

In February 2010, Fan Qihang was convicted of “organizing, leading and participating in triads,” murder, and other charges and sentenced to death. He was originally taken into custody on June 26, 2009 as part of a sweeping crackdown on organized crime orchestrated by Chongqing Party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来). However, instead of being held at a detention center during the police investigation, Fan was taken to an unofficial facility run by the police in Tieshanping, located on a mountainside in the suburbs of Chongqing.

According to Fan, during the nearly five or six months he was held at Tieshanping, he was subjected to numerous forms of torture. Chongqing police shackled his hands behind his back and hung him by his wrists from an iron window grille for as long as five days and five nights at a time, with the handcuffs cutting deeply into his wrists. Police also forced him to stand in a bent position, with his hands cuffed behind his back and then attached to his leg irons, for as long as 10 days at a time. During this period of torture, Fan attempted to kill himself by biting his tongue and twice hitting his head against a wall. He sustained injuries to his head which required hospitalization.

Fan states that police either deprived him of sleep or disrupted his sleep for the duration of his detention at Tieshanping. According to Fan, at a certain point he became completely disoriented, and lost the ability to recognize people or determine where he was. He was also beaten and kicked frequently.

It was under the extreme duress resulting from these forms of torture that Fan was forced to “confess” to having incited others to the murder of Li Minghang (李明航), an alleged drug dealer, as well as to other crimes attributed to him.

Lawyer Zhu gained access to his client only after he had been transferred from Tieshanping to a regular detention centre, at a point when the case no longer fell under the responsibility of the police. It was then that Zhu made video recordings of Fan’s accounts of his torture, and collected photographic evidence of the scars left as a result.

According to Zhu, during their trials Fan and many of his 33 co-defendants repeatedly complained that they were tortured. However, the judges presiding over the trials failed to investigate these allegations or exclude statements extracted through torture from the proceedings. In mid-July, Zhu submitted the secret recordings and pictures documenting Fan’s torture to the Supreme People’s Court, but has yet to receive any response.

CHRD urges the Supreme People’s Court to overturn the death penalty against Fan Qihang. We believe that Fan’s lawyer has provided enough evidence to substantiate the allegation that Fan has been subjected to torture, which violates Chinese law as well as the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which China ratified in 1988, and that his conviction is based on a confession extracted through torture. CHRD calls on the government to implement its newly-released Rules Concerning Questions about Exclusion of Illegal Evidence in Handling Criminal Cases, which state that evidence obtained through illegal means such as torture must be excluded from criminal proceedings.

CHRD calls on the Chinese government to hold the individuals responsible for torturing Fan Qihang legally accountable for their actions. Furthermore, we continue to demand that the Chinese government take concrete steps to address the widespread problem of torture in detention facilities and act to ensure the safety of all individuals taken into police custody.

CHRD calls on the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, the Committee against Torture, as well as the EU, US, and other governments to take urgent action regarding Fan Qihang’s case. If the Chinese Supreme People’s Court fails to overturn the death sentence, Fan’s execution could take place immediately.


As part of Chongqing Party secretary Bo Xilai’s crackdown on organized crime in the municipality, Fan was put on trial for triad-related crimes as part of a 34-person group. The trials attracted national attention not only because the Chongqing crackdown was one of the most high-profile anti-organized crime actions in China in recent years, but also because of the many irregularities associated with the trials. Many of Fan’s co-defendants, including alleged gang boss Gong Gangmo (龚刚模), stated that they were tortured during interrogation by police officers. Gong later accused his lawyer, Li Zhuang (李庄), of instructing him to lie in court that he was tortured. Li was later found guilty of “fabricating evidence and obstructing testimony” and sentenced him to two years and six months in prison on January 8, 2010.

Media Contacts

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 1660

For more information and background, please see:

He Yang, “Interview with Lawyer Zhu Mingyong: Cracking down on Triads (朱明勇律师专访—黑打),” July 29, 2010,

Zhu Mingyong, “Defending Fan Qihang during Review of His Death Penalty: Multimedia Material (樊奇杭死刑复核辩护多媒体材料),” July 29, 2010, Part I:; Part II: and Part III:

CHRD, “Persistent Torture, Unaccountable Torturers: A Report on China’s Implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” November 5, 2008.

[1] For an English translation of these rules, please click here.

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