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Committee against Torture considers report of China

Committee against Torture

18 November 2015

The Committee against Torture concluded this afternoon its consideration of the fifth periodic report of China, including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Presenting the report, Wu Hailong, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that China had incorporated “respect for and protection of human rights” in its Criminal Procedure Law.  Re-education through the labour system had been abolished in 2013.  The judicial authorities had put forward a series of regulations to establish a life-long accountability system for cases and a tracing system for erroneous cases.  Anti-torture training was mandatory for all staff of detention facilities and prisons, while the system incorporated the prohibition of extortion of confessions by torture or abuse of detainees.  The growing force of Chinese lawyers played an ever greater role in law-based governance and combatting torture. 

Law Chi-kong Joshua, Permanent Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, informed that Hong Kong residents enjoyed the right of freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration under the Basic Law. 

Chu Lam Lam, Director of the Law Reform and International Law Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region, stated that Macao residents could file complaints through multiple channels.  Everyone had the right to access to the law, and could not be refused access to justice due to inadequate economic resources. 

In the discussion which followed, Committee Experts asked numerous questions about the rule of law, the implementation of justice and the independence of judges in China.   Audio and video recording of interrogations, use of interrogation chairs, access to a lawyer, and independence of lawyers and reasons for their disbarment were repeatedly raised by Experts.  Other issues discussed included the existence of “black jails”, provisions of the law on domestic violence, the use of solitary confinement, deaths in custody, and using torture to extract confessions.  Experts wanted to know about processing of asylum claims and the use of force against protesters in the 2014 demonstrations in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and about anti-corruption measures and the fight against human trafficking in the Macao Special Administrative Region.

Mr. Wu, in concluding remarks, stated that Experts’ recommendations would be taken into consideration with China’s specific context in mind.  China was looking forward to an objective and impartial evaluation of its implementation of the Convention.

The delegation of China included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Supreme People’s Court, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, Standing Committee of National People’s Congress, State Bureau for Letters and Calls and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Security Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Department of Justice, Hong Kong Police Force and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau; Legal Affairs Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region, Macao Prison, Office of the Secretary for the Administration of Justice, Office of the Secretary for Security, Social Welfare Bureau and the Law Reform and International Law Bureau. 

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at the Palais Wilson on Friday, 20 November 2015 at 3 p.m., when it will start its consideration of the third periodic report of Jordan (CAT/C/JOR/3).

Report
 
The fifth periodic report of China can be read here: CAT/C/CHN/5. The fifth periodic report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is available here: CAT/C/CHN-HKG/5, and the fifth periodic report of the Macao Special Administrative Region can be found here: CAT/C/CHN-MAC/5.

Presentation of the Report
 
WU HAILONG, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that China had amended the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012, clearly incorporating “respect and protect human rights” in its general provisions.  Distinct stipulations had been introduced on the prohibition of forced self-incrimination and the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence.  Re-education through the labour system had been abolished in 2013.  The Criminal Law had also been amended, and the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty had been reduced.  Significant efforts had been made to guard against the miscarriage of justice, which gave a strong boost to China’s work against torture.  The State party had also widened the scope of the audio and video recording system for the entire process of interrogation of criminal suspects for major cases, and would gradually apply that system to all criminal cases. 

Since 2013, the judicial authorities had put forward a series of regulations to establish a life-long accountability system for cases and a tracing system for erroneous cases.  In 2014, courts at all levels had changed verdicts of 1,317 criminal cases according to trial supervision procedures, including some major cases involving the miscarriage of justice.  In the first half of 2015, the procuratorial authorities had issued over 400 opinions on rectification to case-handling departments regarding obstructions to the exercise of the right to litigation by defendants and agents ad litem.  Regulations on State compensation cases had been promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Public Safety.  Supervision and checks were the keys to countering torture, and the oversight measures in that regard had been stepped up.  Legal compliance officers had been deployed in frontline law enforcement units, while supervision of the detention facilities had been enhanced.   Since the previous review of China’s report, deputies of the People’s Congress had paid more than 14,000 unannounced visits to detention facilities.  Open days had been regularly held by prisons and other detention facilities. 

The Convention against Torture and other United Nations human rights instruments represented an important part of the training programmes of judicial authorities in China, with the coverage of more than 90 per cent.  Anti-torture training was mandatory for all staff of detention facilities and prisons.   The system incorporated the prohibition of the extortion of confessions by torture or abuse of detainees.  Provisions on legally safeguarding the right of lawyers to practice law had been promulgated in 2014; they contained a series of stipulations aimed at upholding the guarantees for lawyers’ rights, inter alia, to be informed, make applications and complaints, meet with their clients and conduct cross-examinations.  The growing force of Chinese lawyers, now numbering 270,000, would play a greater role in law-based governance and combatting torture.  Mr. Wu stressed that China was still facing challenges in the prevention and prohibition of torture, and as a result of the imbalanced development amongst regions, improper law enforcement and judicial activities at odds with the rules existed in certain locations to varying degrees.  The adoption of the thirteenth five-year plan for national economic and social development had laid out a series of major targets and guiding principles for China’s development, including the basic completion of a law-based Government system and a more effective guarantee for human rights.

LAW CHI-KONG JOSHUA, Permanent Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said that the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region provided a solid foundation for the full protection of the rights and freedoms of its residents and other persons.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region enjoyed independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.  Residents enjoyed the right of freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration under the Basic Law; in 2014, more than 6,800 public meetings and processions had taken place.  If there was any illegal act, the police had a duty to take enforcement action to maintain law and order, under stringent guidelines on the use of force.  In 2014, during the illegal occupation which had lasted 79 days, the police had exercised a high degree of tolerance and restraint.  The Independent Police Complaints Council possessed statutory power to monitoring the police’s handling and investigation of complaints and made recommendations with a view of improving the police’s work procedures.  Detainees could meet with their lawyers in private, and the conditions in detention facilities had been significantly improved since 2008.  In 2014, a unified screening mechanism had been implemented to screen non-refoulement claims against return to another country lodged on such grounds as torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and persecution.  All non-refoulement claimants had been provided with humanitarian assistance, including accommodation, food, clothing and other basic necessities.  Provisions on the protection of victims of domestic violence had been expanded to protect broader categories, including same-sex cohabitants.

CHU LAM LAM, Director of the Law Reform and International Law Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region, informed that the internal and work regulations of the Macao Special Administrative Region clearly stipulated that it was necessary to ensure that residents would not be inflicted with various types of cruel or inhuman treatment indicated in the Convention.  Residents could file complaints through multiple channels, including several commissions, thus forming an efficient supervisory mechanism.  Everyone had the right to access to law, and could not be refused access to justice due to inadequate economic resources.  A special committee had been established in 2007 to deal with the problem of human trafficking and establish a comprehensive mechanism for assisting victims.  Protection and assistance for victims of domestic violence were given utmost importance; that was done through cooperation between various departments and non-governmental institutions.  The Macao Special Administrative Region Prison was now prohibited from imposing solitary confinement for anyone under 18.  Juvenile offenders were allowed to undertake regular study and other activities with other juveniles during the day.

Questions by Experts
 
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for China, said that the definition of torture should fully comply with Article 1 of the Convention.  What steps was the State party taking to ensure the full incorporation of the definition of torture in its legislation? How was discrimination of any kind incorporated in the definition of torture?  Were there plans to expand the current criminal legislation, to include severe mental pain or suffering?

He asked what steps were being taken to ensure that a person acting in official capacity could be prosecuted for torture. 

Torture for purposes other than to extract confession was also brought up by the Expert.  Would the State party consider expanding the definition of torture in that regard?

The delegation was asked to report on the number of alleged cases of torture reported by Tibetan prisoners and how many such cases had been prosecuted.

What was the longest amount of time a person could be held before being brought before a judge or other judicial authority, the Expert asked.  How were the records of all detainees kept and could such statistics be shared?  How many detainees were there currently in China?

More information was sought about the prevalence of audio-video recording in police stations.

Access to independent medical personnel was an important issue, Mr. Tugushi stressed and asked what procedures provided for such practice.  Were there conditions for confidential medical examinations?

Details were asked on provisions defining access to a lawyer, as such information was missing from the report.  Criminal lawyers reportedly refused to take cases including police abuse. 

How many complaints had been launched for cases when a family member had not received a notification of the detention of their family member?

A question was asked about steps taken by the State party to monitor detention in all facilities, and avoid the so-called “black jails”.

What was being done to protect and promote the independence of lawyers?  What was being done to prevent interference with the work of human rights lawyers?  Was there an independent complaints mechanism for lawyers to protest the revocation of their license?

There were numerous reports on how nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been returned to their country.  How could they be returned if that was in contravention with the principle of non-refoulement?  They could not be considered economic migrants.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for China, asked about the effectiveness of the human rights and anti-torture training of legal enforcement staff.

The delegation was asked to clarify procedures for investigating deaths in custody.  In how many cases had relatives objected to the procuratorate’s conclusion and in how many cases had a new investigation been carried out?  The issue of deaths due to the lack of medical treatment was also raised.

Many lawyers had been arrested and kept in incommunicado detention.  The license to practice was now renewable on a one-year basis.  Lawyers seemed to be particularly prone to commit the crime of “picking quarrels and making trouble” – could the delegation clarify?

The Committee had information on a number of ways to detain persons without a legal framework protecting basic rights, including “legal education classes”, “black jails”, illegal house arrest and residential surveillance at a designated place.  What had the State party done to prohibit such practices and to prevent interrogation outside detention centres. 

What was the number of detainees kept in solitary confinement because of safety risks, the Expert asked.  For how long could a detainee be confined?  Details were also asked about procedures to decide on the use of restraint in police stations and protective safeguards. 

The delegation was requested to inform the Committee about its position to establish an independent monitoring mechanism along the lines of the Optional Protocol.

What was the total number of torture-related complaints received from all sources and all methods, for each crime that covered the aspects of the Convention’s definition of torture?

How many complaints of abuse had been submitted by detainees and prisoners in total, how many had been investigated and what were the outcomes, asked Mr. Modvig.

How were video tapes of interrogations supervised and used?  Were there any time limits for the duration of the interrogation?  A question was also asked about the existence of guidelines for determining the amount or type of evidence sufficient to rule out that the confession was made under torture

Another Expert asked about the role of the justice system in interpreting provisions under the Constitution

She raised the issue of the independence of judges and commented that there seemed to be room for impunity given that most oversight was internal.  There were no clear provisions for administrative detention, which might give rise to impunity.  The police were no longer required to inform the family members of the detainees of their whereabouts, for up to six months.  Usage of body-deforming tools in detention was also raised.

The issue of violations committed by law enforcement officials was brought up by an Expert, who asked about examples of punishments imposed on officials who had been fought guilty. 

How many deaths in custody were due to injuries because of violent acts and how had they been investigated?

How was the State party encouraging the independence of the judiciary, an Expert inquired.  How effective had the human rights training for judges been?  Had those who mattered most been specifically trained?

Information was asked about sentences imposed on those who were found guilty of torture. 

The independence of the judiciary was nothing without an independent Lawyers Bar.  How was the power of the State explained to revoke licenses of lawyers?  The Chinese Bar did not seem to be a professional organization because it was barely self-regulating. 

It was not always easy to understand the institutional functioning of the State party, noted another Expert.  The state of law which was not guaranteed by an independent judicial system was not a state of law because it lacked substance.  There seemed to be political interference in the functioning of the judiciary.  Were there statutory rules guaranteeing the independence of judges in terms of recruitment and promotion?

Torture in China seemed to be a cause of concern and the general atmosphere of impunity appeared to be the key cause of the persistence of torture.  Could the State party provide additional information in that regard?  How many lawyers were currently detained and on what charges?

Forced repatriation of refugees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including cases of sexual violence against them, was raised by an Expert.  Did those persons have their status clarified when they arrived to China?  Was China continuing the practice of forcible return in spite of the mounting evidence of what was happening to them upon their return?  Why was the United Nations Refugee Agency not allowed at the border crossing to monitor the situation?

The Expert wanted to know about the number of persons still in prison over the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the blocking commemorative events on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the event.

The treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in hospitals, allegedly including electroshocks, was also raised by the Expert.

Denying the right to a lawyer amounted to the miscarriage of justice, an Expert noted.  How were courts working independently if lawyers could not work free from fear, she asked.  What measures were planned to release lawyers who were detained and to ensure that no lawyer would be detained for representing a client?

The Expert asked about the number of perpetrators of domestic violence who had been convicted and the number of affected women accessing State services.

What measures were being taken to stop the practice of gender-selective abortions

The Committee would appreciate hearing about the treatment of Falun Gong members, including on the allegations of organ transplants.

The issue of access to defence lawyers in cases of persons accused on national security charges was raised by another Expert.  What legal safeguards existed for people accused for crimes against security, including terrorism? 

Was the exclusion of lawyers from the bar association permanent?  What were the exact qualifications needed for one to practice law?

Turning to the situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region, Mr. Tugushi asked about the definition of a  public official for the sake of being prosecuted for torture.  What steps had they taken to include pain and suffering to the definition of torture and what were the plans to have the definition of torture in line with the Convention?

Would the crime of torture be considered a single offence leading to punishment commensurate to such a crime? 

Given that several bodies had recommended to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to accede to the Refugee Convention, could the delegation comment on its refusal to do so? 

How soon was the arrested person informed of charges against him and allowed to contact his lawyer and relatives?  How was it ensured that those rights were implemented in practice?  Had all protesters in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had access to legal representatives?

Mr. Modvig asked about training on the Istanbul Protocol in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and whether staff members were required to implement it in their daily work.

Did the delegation think that corruption was a problem in China, the Macao Special Administrative Region and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and what measures were being taken in that regard? 

The number of persons in solitary confinement in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region seemed to be quite high.  What legal safeguards did prisoners in such conditions have?  Which types of medical restraints were legal in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region?

More information was requested about the number and types of complaints against the police’s use of force during the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region demonstrations in 2014.  What was the follow-up?

The Expert recommended that the Macao Special Administrative Region got qualified medical trainers from abroad if those could not be found in the country.  He also asked about the use of solitary confinement, including for minors. 

How had investigations of complaints against the abuse of force by law enforcement officers been completed?

An Expert asked whether any law enforcement officer had been disciplined or investigated for their behaviour during the Umbrella Movement protests in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  She also wanted to know why a number of activists in China had been arrested for posting messages of support to the protesters in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
                                                                                                                                                   
A question was also asked about the reported prevention of activists from coming to Geneva to interact with the Committee.  Did they constitute a threat to national security?

How many torture claims had been received in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since the creation of a specialized division?

The Committee was concerned about involuntary irreversible surgeries of intersex children, another Expert said.

Did the laws on domestic violence in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region protect persons in same sex couples from domestic violence?  Details were also asked on the protection of the victims of human trafficking.

The Macao Special Administrative Region was asked to provide details on the cases of domestic violence in the Macao Special Administrative Region and subsequent prosecutions and punishments.

Replies by the Delegation
 
The delegation said that a comprehensive and impartial view of China’s anti-torture efforts ought to be taken.  Progress made in that area was clearly visible.  China’s efforts in combatting torture would never cease, stressed the delegation. 

China had made its utmost efforts to collect and submit data requested by the Committee, but the reality was that China remained a developing country with a huge population and unequally developed regions.  For that reason, China was unable to provide all the requested data, but further efforts would continue in that regard.

It was explained that it was difficult for the domestic law to completely incorporate the definition of torture in the Convention due to the difference in the tradition of cultures and languages, however, relevant clauses of the current Criminal Law covered all aspects of the definition on torture in the Convention.  The laws covered not only corporal punishment, but also behaviour leading to mental suffering.  Evidence collected through so-called “fatigue interrogation” was considered inadmissible in courts.

Procuratorial authorities enjoyed a lofty legal status in China’s legal framework, and wielded their powers independently in accordance with the law, without interference from any administrative organ or social organization. 

The Government provided systematic anti-torture training programmes to judicial and law enforcement practitioners.  The over 10,000 medical personnel in detention facilities had all received professional medical and anti-torture training.   Public security organs had intensified law enforcement and supervision on the prohibition against torture.

Some illegal immigrants entering China from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not meet the conditions stipulated in the Refugee Convention.  China had expressed its reservation on the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The principle of non-refoulement was sometimes abused by criminals intending to escape justice. 

The delegation said that China would continue to carefully study its reservations to certain provisions of the Convention.  Individual complaints focused on specific cases, and were not accepted by China.  The focus was instead on institutional and systematic measures taken by the State party.

On the independence of judges, it was explained that judges carried out trials free from any interference.  Those who passed the national judicial examinations, met relevant legal qualifications and received appointment could serve as judges.  Judges could not be dismissed, demoted or punished without legal ground.  Judges kept account of any interference or instructions in specific cases, and those involved were kept accountable.  The supreme legislative organ of China did not interfere with independent judicial powers of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  Public disclosure of judicial affairs also helped prevent interference in judges’ right to work independently.

Exclusion of illegal evidence was applicable during any period of the criminal case and not just in the trial time; it was relatively rare for such an exclusion to occur in the trial stage.  Between January 2013 and September 2015, courts had declared 2,191 persons innocent due to insufficient evidence, including exclusion of illegal evidence. 

Turning to the rights of lawyers, a delegate explained that any legal counsel destroying or falsifying evidence should be accused of the crime and held accountable.  Disrupting the court order was not allowed.  The legitimate rights of lawyers were protected by the law.

When an abnormal death occurred in detention, the relevant detention authority was obliged to report to the people’s procuratorate for on the spot investigations.  Medical facilities were normally installed in the detention facilities.  If needed, forensic appraisals were carried out by professionals.

China prohibited and criminalized torture and prosecuted any personnel of State organs for any torture activities, a delegate stressed.  People’s procuratorates were responsible for the prosecution of such State personnel.  There were plenty of cases of prosecuting torture offenders, which showed China’s determination to fight torture.

Detention facilities were regularly visited by delegations composed of the representatives of the People’s Congress, experts, scholars and community members.  If torture problems were detected, those would be reported to the relevant high-level organs.  Public security organs could extend detention from three to seven days and, under exceptional circumstances, to 30 days in accordance with the law. 

All detainees would first be registered and their medical records completed.  Next-of-kin of detainees had access to relevant registration and medical records upon approval of public security organs.  On-site doctors in detention facilities performed physical examinations on the detained criminal suspects, defendants and criminals, and if injuries were discovered, those had to be recorded.  If signs of torture were identified, they would be investigated  by the competent departments.

Death in custody due to no access to prompt medical remedy was not allowed to happen.  There was a list of 18 categories of serious illnesses, which provided ground for medical parole.

Criminal suspects in all cases had the right to access lawyers without approval of the investigator.  Legal aid was available if they could not afford it.  Defence lawyers were allowed to meet the suspects immediately or within 48 hours at the latest if not immediately possible. 

The Criminal Procedure Law stipulated that the notification of family members of detainees could be delayed as a result of impossibility of notification or potential obstruction to the investigation in cases regarding compromising national security or terrorist activities.  Relevant supervision mechanisms had been established to prevent abuse.

Solitary confinement applied to detainees of Grade 1 substantial risk and was a management tool rather than a punitive measure.  Interrogation chairs served as protective and security measures to prevent suspects from escaping, committing self-injury or self-mutilation, or attacking personnel.  There was no torture through the application of interrogation chairs, a delegate emphasized.  Video and audio recording of interrogation was the key to prevent torture and an auditing system had been established in order to ensure its implementation. 

Lawyers needed to apply to investigative bodies for meetings with detainees suspected of crimes of undermining national security; a decision had to be made within three days.  The application could be denied in cases of fear of obstruction of the investigation and possible disclosure of national secrets.  The delegation stated that the Chinese judicial authorities fought criminal behaviour truly undermining national security and did not criminalize speech.

The delegation was not aware of any persons being prohibited from leaving China to attend the current Committee session in Geneva. 

China attached great important to the role of lawyers.  The status of lawyer was not a laissez-passer to undermine the law.  There were provisions establishing accountability for infringing upon lawyers’ right to practice law.  The Bar Association was a self-regulatory organization, which conducted the management of lawyers through self-discipline.  The Association safeguarded the lawyers’ right to practice law, adopted a code of conduct and outlined punishment regulations.  The lawyer profession was rapidly growing in China.

Issuing licenses to practice law was an act of administrative licenses by the judicial administrative bodies.  When lawyers committed one of the nine acts stipulated in Article 49 of the Law on Lawyers or punished by criminal law for committing crimes deliberately, they had their licenses revoked and could no longer practice law.

The so-called obtainment of organs of Falun Gong practitioners was the utmost rumour.  Any transplant of organs had to have the written consent of the donor.

Foetus gender identification was not allowed except for medical needs.  Forced abortion was prohibited, and any abortion had to be carried out voluntarily.  Homosexuality was not viewed as a mental disease that needed compulsive treatment.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons faced some challenges in terms of social acceptance, employment, health and family life.

On Tibet, the delegation said that the lawful rights of ethnic minorities in China were protected by the Constitution and the Law on Regional Autonomy of Ethnic Minorities.  There were no cases of political prisoners, and the allegations of unfair or cruel treatment of suspects or criminals from ethnic minority groups was groundless. 

A delegate said that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had introduced an enhanced screening mechanism to process torture claims for non-refoulement protection.  Claimants were provided with public-funded legal assistance.  Unsuccessful claimants could ask for the decisions of the appeal body to be judicially reviewed.

While maintaining a liberal visa regime, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had to maintain effective border controls in order to stem the flow of illegal immigration.  The Government had introduced an offence of taking up unlawful employment, which had led to a decrease in illegal immigration.

The work to combat human trafficking was multifaceted.  Over the past years, a number of gangs had been prosecuted and traffickers imprisoned in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Separate confinement not exceeding 28 days could be awarded for those who had committed a disciplinary offence, e.g. a violent act or the possession of an unauthorized article.  The number of disciplinary cases leading to separate confinement was very low and its average duration was around seven days in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Most public events in Hong Kong in recent years had been orderly and peaceful.  The police force always appealed to the public that protesters should be law-abiding and refrain from violence.  All persons arrested in the 1 July 2014 protest had been allowed access to lawyers; all of them had been released under various conditions on 2 July 2014 after processing.  The illegal Occupy movement in 2014 had presented a serious challenge to law and order and had ended peacefully after 79 days.  Before using force, police officers should, whenever possible, give warnings, and exercise restraint.  An effective two-tier complaint system was in place.

Follow-up Questions by Experts
 
An Expert asked how Hong Kong Special Administrative Region defined substantial risk and the minimum level of severity.

Given that only one per cent of asylum claims were accepted, did the State party think that its system was too restrictive?

What was the standard of granting refugee status in the Macao Special Administrative Region, as the threshold was perhaps too high?  Had any nationals from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea been deported?  Were there methods to identify groups of immigrants who would face particular threat of torture if sent back?

Several recent incidents during the Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had raised some concerns, such as kicking and punching of protesters by police officers.  Had those officers been investigated and prosecuted?  How many protesters had been prosecuted and how many remained in detention?

Another Expert asked whether the training programmes covered undertaking investigations into alleged cases of torture under the Istanbul Protocol.

The Expert inquired whether China would consider establishing a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.

How many cases of compensation had there been for torture and ill-treatment, and were there other types of compensation in addition to monetary?

A question was asked about how many detainees and prisoners were classified as Grade 1 and kept in solitary confinement.  What was the reason for interrogation chairs, given that the chance of the detainee escaping was very low?  The duration of investigation was also raised.

Would the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region consider establishing an independent body for the oversight of the use of force, the Expert asked.

An Expert asked what the law provided as a punishment for those using torture to extract confessions.   To which authority did different organs monitoring detention report to? Were their recommendations made public?

Details were asked about the regime of detention for those on death row.

The treatment of persons with disabilities, physical or mental, in detention facilities was raised by an Expert, who stressed that their disabilities made them particularly vulnerable.

The Committee agreed that lawyers were not a protected species, but who decided in the dispute between the court and the Bar on who was right and who was wrong?

There was a self-regulating system for judges and the system of their appointment seemed to be anonymous.  What did the coordination of the work of judges with the political committee mean in practice? 

A question was asked about whether the domestic violence law included psychological violence.

Issues of child sex tourism and forced labour of foreign victims of trafficking were also raised by an Expert.

Clarification was sought about what constituted a crime against national security.

Restrictions on the practice of lawyers were viewed with severe scrutiny, said the Expert.  Unlawful behaviour which could lead to the loss of license had to be clearly spelt out.  Could individual lawyers practice law or did they have to be members of law firms?

Replies by the Delegation
 
In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a public official or person acting in an official capacity could be held responsible for intentionally inflicting severe pain or suffering in the conduct of their official duties, which may include medical personnel, irrespective of whether the pain or suffering was inflicted for a reason based on discrimination. 

On foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a delegate explained that, as shown in the Erwiana case, the Government treated any case of abuse of such workers very seriously.  In that particular case, the employer had been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison and fined HK$ 15,000.

Health-care professionals in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region adopted a multi-disciplinary approach in providing investigation, treatment and management based on the clinical condition of intersex babies.  Any decision was made with the agreement of the parents of the concerned baby.

No illegal acts by any police officers in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region were tolerated.  After in-depth investigations, seven police officers had been prosecuted for “causing grievous bodily harm with intent” during the 2014 protests.  A total of 133 police officers had been injured during the illegal Occupy movement.  Police actions during those events had been seriously hindered and numerous police vehicles seriously damaged.

Regarding the fight against corruption, a delegate informed that in the Macao Special Administrative Region all public servants and their spouses had to declare their assets.

There had been a gradual decrease in the number of juveniles staying in solitary sleeping rooms, and there had been no case of juveniles staying in solitary sleeping rooms in 2014.  In Macao Prison, the only exception was made in the cases when juveniles were infected with highly dangerous infectious diseases. 

A delegate explained that there had not yet been any cases concerning the use of stun cuffs, which had proven their function on deterrence and prevention.  In cases of emergency, the prison guard could activate the stun cuff which would release a three-second electric current, causing partial paralysis of the prisoner when necessary.

Services provided  by the Social Welfare Bureau could be provided to victims in same-sex cohabitating relationships.  Domestic violence was not considered an independent offence at present, but was penalized pursuant to general criminal provisions.

Hong Kong was a Special Administrative Region of China and was not a State party as such, a delegate stated.  Fugitives transferred from one to the other were still transferred within the same country. 

In China, there was no national human rights institution as described by an Expert, but a number of other institutions carried out those functions.  The issue would be further studied.

It was difficult to translate the word “torture” from English to Chinese.  Through different provisions of domestic law, acts of torture were covered.  The State party was nonetheless open to hearing Experts’ recommendations in that regard. 

The independence of procurorates was guaranteed.  Unscheduled visits to detention facilities were regularly conducted. 

The delegation said that interrogation chairs were used to guarantee safety and prevent detainees from escaping or harming themselves or others.  The chairs were sometimes covered with soft padding to increase the sense of comfort.

Concluding Remarks
 
WU HAILONG, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the dialogue had been conducted in a constructive and professional spirit.  The delegation had done its best to answer all the questions.  Experts’ comments and recommendations would be taken into consideration with China’s specific context in mind.  China was looking forward to an objective and impartial evaluation of its implementation of the Convention.  China would continue to comprehensively promote the rule of law and steadily advance its judicial system. 


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For use of the information media; not an official record

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