Chinese embarrassment as TV captures police beating

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The Independent Online
POLICE brutality occurs in many countries, normally behind closed doors. But at one police station in central Shanghai, officers thought nothing of handcuffing suspects to a window opening on to a public street, and beating them in the hearing of neighbours and passers-by. The policemen did not, of course, expect a Western television crew to film the abuses and broadcast them around the world.

A Canadian television crew (CTV) was filming another story in Shanghai last October when they heard cries nearby. "We were in a building across the alleyway. It was late at night, with the window opposite lit against the darkness. We heard the man's shouts," said the correspondent, Holly Doan. Across the alley they could see into a room where a man was handcuffed behind his back to the window bars. "At first we thought it might be a crime. But we saw men in uniform in the building, and saw the man in handcuffs being roughed up," said Ms Doan. The building was the Lu Wan district police station.

The CTV team returned to Shanghai last month and went back to its vantage point. Within three hours a suspect was brought in, handcuffed to the window and was seen flinching from the blows. "He was punched, kicked and slapped. Our microphone could even pick up the sounds. After 15 minutes they unshackled him, and we could see a policeman." said Ms Doan. The officer demanded: "Are you going to talk?"

Most telling is how China now intends to handle this exposure. New laws and regulations are supposed to improve the rights of suspects, including access to a lawyer, and beatings and torture are illegal. But more often than not, the police freely flout such rules. Under China's often summary judicial procedures, defendants are often sentenced on just a confession - even if it was beaten out of them.

After the CTV footage was shown last week, the first reaction from the Lu Wan station chief, Jiang Weiguo, was to call the film "a falsification". He said: "Mistreatment and beatings of criminals during interrogations do not occur." A different station officer admitted to Reuters that suspects "may be handcuffed to the window grate to stop them running away".

On Thursday the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, said the Shanghai Police Department was "shocked" about the case. "If there is extortion of confessions with torture, the cases will be dealt with seriously and for criminal responsibilities."

However, he added that according to the Lu Wan station report, "there is no evidence indicating this precinct conducts extortion of confessions", and that more information was needed for further investigation.

CTV has given the Foreign Ministry a copy of the unedited footage, and the investigation continues.