China Censors Police Brutality Report After Death in Custody

China Censors Police Brutality Report After Death in Custody
China Censors Police Brutality Report After Death in Custody

An investigative report that brought to light a tragic case of police brutality resulting in the death of a man in custody was scrubbed by Chinese internet censors on Monday, shortly after its publication.

The report by financial outlet Caixin revealed court documents from China’s troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, where the victim, identified as Sun Renze, had been arrested on March 27, 2018, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a public order crime that is widely applied by Chinese authorities to arbitrarily detain suspects and human rights activists alike.

Incidents of torture, disappearances, indefinite detentions and unexplained deaths are commonplace in China’s opaque justice system, and similar reports continue to emerge despite the efforts of the government’s hypersensitive censorship apparatus.

Xinjiang is also the site of Beijing’s campaign of cultural assimilation against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities, in which the United States and other Western governments say amounts to genocide.

Sun, 31, appeared to have been held for months, according to the report based on footage and confessions heard during the subsequent trial of the eight officers involved. He was subjected to repeated, brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of multiple police officers.

Footage recorded on September 26, captured during a seven-hour interrogation in Huocheng county, later became the basis for their convictions, which were handed down on November 6 last year by a local court in the city of Kuytun.

The court found them guilty of assault resulting in Sun’s death and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three to 13 years. Caixin’s report on the ruling was deleted from its website.

In order to extract a confession, officers at the Huocheng detention center initially interrogated Sun outdoors. However, because her screams carried throughout the compound, they conducted further questioning inside, Caixin said.

Public security officials had requested a room without video surveillance, but one secretly left the camera on as a precautionary measure.

The testimony of the officers revealed various forms of abuse, including the use of electric shocks, waterboarding, beatings with pipes, genital torture and extended periods confined to a “tiger chair.” The beatings were carried out using a towel used to minimize visible bruising.

Sun fell into a coma during the order, according to the report. He was taken to the intensive care units of multiple hospitals in the early hours of September 27, while the officers cleared the interrogation room of torture tools in an attempt to cover up their actions.

A Chinese paramilitary police stands guard on the Bund waterfront during China’s National Day celebrations in Shanghai on October 1, 2022. Eight officers in the China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang were convicted last year of causing the death of a man in their custody.
Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Additionally, the officers were accused of fabricating videos later submitted to the local discipline inspection commission. They said Sun had lost consciousness during the interrogation after choking on a cup of water.

He died in hospital on November 9, 2018, Caixin said, citing the Chinese-language court documents.

The censored article said the officers escaped responsibility for years until Sun’s mother, who had seen signs of her son’s injuries at the hospital, went to the press with information about the suspicious death in custody and secured another autopsy.

The first examination said her son died of multiple organ failure but did not expand on the cause.

During the trial, co-defendants revealed the youngest among them—an officer named Liu Xianyong—had engaged in the most sadistic torture methods. In his testimony of him, Liu said: “I wanted to insult Sun Renze’s ego and destroy his psychological defenses.”

Sun’s mother said Liu and other officers who had carried out the beatings were also the same personnel sent to guard the victim’s hospital room while he remained comatose.

Sun’s father was a police officer who died in the line of duty, Caixin said.

Uncommon Knowledge

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