Video of nude woman in custody sparks uproar in Malaysia

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A video clip showing a naked woman doing squats while watched by a policewoman sparked calls today for an investigation into whether Chinese people were targeted unfairly by authorities in Malaysia.

The footage of the woman, who appears to be ethnic Chinese, strengthened allegations that Malaysian police unfairly round up Chinese women, accusing them of prostitution, and bolstered wider complaints about inhumane or humiliating treatment of detainees.

The Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged a thorough investigation, saying the video clip was the first documented evidence of police abusing detainees and vowed stern action against the culprits.

"It should not have happened," Najib told the national news agency Bernama. "It has dealt a severe blow to our country's image."

"It is a disgrace that this sort of thing is happening in our country," said opposition politician Teresa Kok. "This video clip proves the allegations by the Chinese nationals and others before them have some basis of truth that must be investigated."

She said a compact disc containing the video clip was delivered anonymously to her Democratic Action Party office yesterday. She showed it to Parliament the same day.

"It is shameful that this sort of thing is happening in our country," said Nazri Aziz, the minister in charge of Parliament.

The video clip, also displayed on a Malaysian news website, shows a naked woman from the back doing squats holding her ears. In front of her is a navy blue-uniformed policewoman in what appears to be a police station. The detainee then turns to face the camera before putting on her undergarments.

It is not known who took the video, and police have not commented on the issue.

Malaysia's 80,000-strong police force has been accused of rampant corruption, abuse of power and mistreatment of detainees, highlighted by a royal commission report earlier this year.

"This rare piece of material confirms what Malaysians have heard and believed all these years about the inhumane and degrading treatment of persons in custody," the Bar Council of Malaysia said in a statement Friday.

It demanded an "immediate, independent, thorough, transparent and accountable" inquiry into the scandal.

Home Minister Azmi Khalid heads to Beijing on a previously scheduled trip, and he has said he will try to convince the Chinese government that Malaysian authorities are not profiling or targeting Chinese tourists.

Chinese tourism is an important source of revenue for Malaysia.

Malaysian authorities said recently that some 50,000 Chinese nationals had overstayed their visas this year, and that many of the female overstayers were working as prostitutes.

On 3 November, five Chinese women were arrested in Kuala Lumpur and kept in a police lockup for four days for allegedly not having valid papers.

At least three of them filed complaints, claiming that while in detention police officers stole their money and forced them to strip in front of male officers.

All five women were released after immigration authorities confirmed their papers were in order. It was not clear if the woman in the video clip was among the five.