Police will undertake a three-month crackdown on prisoner abuse in Chinese jails starting on Wednesday, the Public Security Ministry said, amid accusations of torture and an uproar over suspicious inmate deaths.The campaign aims to eliminate misuse of authority and boost awareness of the law and human rights, according to a Tuesday notice on the Web site of the ministry, which oversees the police. Inspections and investigations will be carried out after the campaign to determine if problems have been corrected, it said. "We request every detention department at all levels to focus on strengthening their ideology, their professional ethics, as well as their work style and anti-corruption awareness," it said. The notice said officers must learn from the death of 24-year-old Li Qiaoming earlier this year, one of several cases that have focused unusually strong attention from state media on police control of detention centers.
Beatings and other forms of inmate abuse _ calculated to instill fear and enforce discipline _ are considered routine in China's jails, carried out either by police or other detainees on their orders.Badly trained, underpaid and poorly equipped officers are also under heavy political pressure to solve cases, resulting in frequent accusations that they torture suspects to obtain confessions. China's legal system remains largely opaque, and repeated official orders to end such practices have had little apparent effect. In Li's case, officers initially said he had died accidentally while blindfolded and playing a game of hide and seek with other inmates in a detention center in the southwestern province of Yunnan in February. Li was later found to have been beaten to death by another inmate.
Other cases highlighted by state media include that of 19-year-old high school student Xu Gengrong, who died on March 8 after seven days in detention in the northern province of Shaanxi. Local prosecutors say he died of torture, and six officers have been arrested in connection with the case, the official China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.China's 2,700 police-run jails and detention centers can hold suspects awaiting trial for anywhere from a few days to several months.
In the wake of the abuses, state media has cited legal experts calling for thorough reforms, possibly including transferring authority over detention centers from the police force to the Justice Ministry.