Police Chief Dies in Custody; Wife Alleges Torture

Xie Zhigang’s death last month of “a sudden heart attack” highlights the struggle to combat use of torture and forced confession in China. From The Guardian:

His widow said his body told a more complicated story. “There were bruises all over his body, and deep scars on his wrist and ankles. Five of his ribs were broken,” said Wang Li, who alleges that he died due to torture.

In a country that has seen repeated scandals over deaths in custody and forced confessions, two things about Xie’s case stand out. First, the death in Benxi city, Liaoning, in December came months after China introduced new rules designed to reduce the use of torture in investigations. Second, Xie, who had been detained on suspicion of corruption, was a local police chief.

“Forced confessions are rampant,” said Phelim Kine, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch … It has been the futility of such tactics – as highlighted by the cases of She Xianglin and Zhao Zuohai – that has helped to galvanise opinion. Both men served lengthy sentences after admitting “murders”, only for their alleged victims to reappear. Both said they were beaten into confessions.

The article goes on to discuss the difficulties of enforcing reform, and a promising approach to closing the dangerous gap between detention and formal arrest.

Xie’s detention followed accusations of bribery by Zhang Like, who committed suicide in November by setting himself and his car on fire [zw] outside the local courthouse.