The death certificate given his parents gave the cause as cerebral bleeding but the autopsy showed he also had 12 broken ribs. His family were convinced he was beaten to death. In March the head of the detention centre told Wang's family he had died of pneumonia and of beatings by other prisoners.
The death in custody was not unusual but the details were, unusually made available when Wang's parents provided information to foreign journalists as part of their campaign for an independent investigation.
In a country with an all-powerful security apparatus, and no independent judicial process, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners is widespread and, according to Amnesty, systematic. The torturers are rarely called to account.
No statistics are published on deaths in custody, and there are few reliable indications of the real scale of the problem. In October 1993, the Henan Legal Daily said that in that province 41 prisoners and "innocent suspects" had died as a result of torture during interrogation between 1990 and 1992, reported Amnesty. Torture methods that were mentioned by the official newspaper included victims being tied up, scalded with boiling water, hit with bottles, burned with cigarettes, lashed with belts, or having electric prods placed on their genitals. Political prisoners who have been released from jail and subsequently left China have substantiated the reported ill-treatment, including years in solitary confinement.
Violations take place across the board, from the arresting police station, to detention centres and labour camps and jails. China ratified the UN Convention against Torture seven years ago, but, despite the central government's attempts to stop such incidents, the public security and prison authorities still operate without any outside controls.Reuse content