China torture ordeal claim

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THE POLICE detained "Yusuf" last year in Urumqi, the capital of China's restive Muslim Xinjiang province, on suspicion that he had links with exiled ethnic Uighur nationalist organisations.

According to his account, there was an underground area below the city's Public Security Bureau where the torture took place. "I was given electric shocks with electric batons. The shocks were applied all over my body, including in my mouth and on my penis, which caused intense pain ...

"While tortured I was made to wear a kind of metal helmet which came down over [my] eyes. The interrogators used this helmet to prevent fatalities, as some prisoners cannot bear the pain of torture and try to kill themselves by bashing their heads against the walls," he reported to Amnesty International, which this week published a detailed report alleging "gross and systematic" human rights violations in Xinjiang "which until now have gone virtually unnoticed by the international community".

The 92-page report details widespread torture, extra- judicial killings and other human rights abuses. Some male prisoners reported having horse hair or wires with spikes inserted into their penises.

Ever since the Communist victory in 1949, there have been disparate separatist movements in Xinjiang, angry at the Han Chinese dominion and the exploitation of the region's natural resources for Peking's benefit. A growing number of anti-Han riots, bombings and assassinations have taken place in Xinjiang during the Nineties.

According to Amnesty, Peking's response has been indiscriminate repression. "Yusuf" was one of the relatively lucky ones: he was freed after a few weeks when his family paid police pounds 150.