On March 13th, the Public Security Bureau of Wenxian county in Henan province made an extremely unusual Weibo post, admitting that some of its officers may have tortured a suspect in order to extract a confession. That suspect later died in custody.
The bureau’s notice, posted to one of China’s most popular social media networks, adds that charges have been filed against the officers involved, and an investigation into the matter is currently underway.
Torture is still believed to be commonly used by Chinese police to extract confessions, helping to keep Chinese courts’ conviction rate at a near perfect 99.92%. In recent years, the practice has been brought more to the forefront thanks to a couple of high-profile cases in which convicted murderers were proven innocent more than a decade after they were executed with investigators finding that their confessions had been made under the duress of torture.
However, what is certainly not common is Chinese police admitting to the possibility of torture before it has been exposed by the media. According to the Global Times, the notice has been viewed more than 13 million times. The Weibo post carries 2,400 shares and nearly 1,000 comments. Many of the comments (which are likely heavily censored), praise the public security bureau for owning up to its mistakes.
“I believe that this is the first time that the police have not waited for public opinion to ferment, and have instead stepped forward to launch an investigation into the use of torture to extract a forced confession. I want to commend the Jiaozuo Public Security Bureau! This kind of law enforcement gives hope for a society ruled by law,” reads the top comment in the Weibo thread.
“It’s always the media exposes, then the government reacts. This is the first time I’ve seen a public security bureau take the initiative and expose something on its own microblogging account,” echoes another commenter.
“While this is very basic, in China it’s rarely seen. Self-examine; self-correct. If there’s a problem, you fix it. It’s something that is worthy of our praise,” writes another Weibo user.
And we might be seeing more of it in the future, according to Jeremy Daum of Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center in Beijing.
“This seems to be a new communication tactic,” Daum told AFP. “If people believe that the situation is being reviewed openly in accordance with law and handled justly, they are more likely to wait and see what happens rather than take their concerns to the streets.”
Oh, btw, the suspect who died had been detained in connection with a telecom scam. But, hey, points for honesty!
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