Amnesty: Chinese trade in torture tools fuels human rights abuses

Companies promote their products online.

Story highlights

  • Trade in torture devices by Chinese companies flourishing, says Amnesty International
  • Exports of police equipment are fueling human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, it says.
  • Much of the equipment is "inherently cruel" and should be banned.
  • Some equipment has legitimate uses but can still be misused, it adds.
Electric shock guns, spiked metal batons and leg and neck shackles.
These are some of the torture devices being made and exported by Chinese companies, fueling human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, according to a new report from campaign group Amnesty International.
The report says that trade in what it calls tools of torture is flourishing, with 130 Chinese companies engaged in the production and trade of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment, compared with 28 companies a decade ago.
Most of the companies highlighted in the report are state owned, the report said, and openly promote their products at international trade shows and online.
While some of the equipment such as tear gas, handcuffs and plastic bullets has legitimate policing uses, Amnesty says many of the devices marketed by these companies are intrinsically cruel and inhumane and should be banned immediately.
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Chinese officials questioned the report's credibility.
"I think you should not ask this question to the foreign ministry. We have no knowledge of it," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday. "But I would like to remind you that the organization you mentioned has always had strong bias against China. So I think it's questionable about whether the report is real."
"Chinese authorities have done nothing to stop companies supplying these sickening devices for export or to prevent policing equipment falling into the hands of known human rights abusers," said Patrick Wilcken, security trade and human rights researcher at Amnesty International.
The report, co-authored with the Omega Research Foundation calls on China to immediately ban the production and trade of inherently cruel and abusive equipment.
It also urged Beijing to suspend or deny trade license for the supply of equipment when there is a substantial risk that the equipment will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights abuses.
Amnesty said the global trade in law enforcement equipment is poorly controlled and China is not alone in its failure to regulate the supply of law enforcement equipment to countries where there is a clear risk that it will be misused. It added that all countries should heed the report's recommendations.
As many as 29 Chinese companies make electric stun batons that allow security officials to apply painful multiple shocks to sensitive areas of the body such as the groin without leaving long-lasting physical traces. A greater number of companies make restraint devices such as weighted leg cuffs.
Spiked batons have been exported to security forces in Nepal and Thailand and have been reportedly used by police in Cambodia, while Chinese made electric shock batons are being carried by police in Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Madagascar, the report said.
Another example highlighted shows how Chinese-made riot control equipment was used to suppress protests against the rising cost of living in Uganda, killing at least 33.
"China's flawed export system has allowed the trade in torture and repression to prosper," Wilcken said.
The report also documents how electric shock batons, mechanical restraints and other devices are widely used in detention centers throughout China.
One practitioner of banned Falun Gong spiritual movement told Amnesty how she was tortured with an electric baton on her face:
"It's a kind of torture the police call 'bengbao popcorn' because your face splits open and looks like popped corn."