I hadn’t opened China Daily in months until today. Someone had told me they’re getting much more aggressive, almost becoming a real newspaper, and sure enough the first article I saw was a lengthy exposé of its government’s detention centers and the abuse of inmates there by local police. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who found this noteworthy:
Inmates in China’s 2,700 pretrial detention centers suffer bullying and torture at the hands of fellow prisoners and police officers, and some experts want a neutral body to take the centers out of police control to curb the abuses, the state-run English-language newspaper, China Daily, reported on Tuesday.
The newspaper noted that the Communist Party’s latest four-year plan for legal reforms does not contemplate changes in the detention system. The full-page article said that since February 8, five inmates had died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Amnesty International, the human-rights advocacy group, last week reported two additional deaths that the police say were due to illness. Family members dispute those explanations.
All seven deaths occurred in police detention centers, where inmates accused of crimes can be held for months awaiting trial or formal charges. The centers are officially run by the national public-security ministry, but are effectively controlled by local police officials who, one expert was quoted as saying, regard them “as part of their turf and the most profitable piece of their territory.”
Another criminal procedure expert, Chen Weidong of Renmin University, was quoted as saying that officers “will sometimes have the detained suspects, especially new ones, tortured so that they can get confessions and complete an investigation as soon as possible.”
Not sure what’s gotten into them, but this kind of serious reporting is certainly a turn for the better. Meanwhile, this despicable practice of allowing local police to run these detention centers should come to an end immediately. If China Daily is reporting it, I want to think it must mean the government is tired of it. Or did this somehow slip through the cracks, and we’ll hear tomorrow that the reporter got fired? Let’s hope this is the start of a trend. Real journalism in China. If it continues, the China’s media have an opportunity to end their image as puppets of the state. How far can it go?
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.