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China resorts to Mao-ordered ‘torture’

A dreaded practice used by Mao Zedong in 'cultural revolution' to crush dissent,has been revived.

Written by Agencies | Beijing |
November 9, 2010 4:16:29 pm

As petitions complaining against official abuse galore,Chinese police resorted to methods like “public shaming” of the petitioners to disgrace them before crowds,a dreaded practice prevalent during “cultural revolution” led by Mao Zedong in 1966 to crush dissent.

The incidents of “public shaming” have apparently become frequent,despite the government declaring it as illegal as official daily ‘Global Times’ today carried a feature titled “Shame on you” charging officials of continuing it to deter people from petitioning against local officials.

The daily featured the story of Duan Dingmei,a 42-year-old villager from Fuping county,Weinan,Shaanxi Province who was paraded before a crowd portraying her as criminal who committed a serious crime to petition higher officials against local authorities of her village.

“Like so many before her,Duan decided to come to the capital to seek justice. Just as she expected,police sent her back home. But when she arrived,she was immediately hustled onto a stage in a public square where a large group of villagers”,the Daily reported.

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Duan said she quickly realised that this was a tactic used by the authorities to humiliate her once she heard that the gathering had been convened as “public treatment for illegal petitioning”.

“I was pushed by two policemen up the small stage in front of the square,which was full of people.

When they read out my so-called illegal behaviour of petitioning,I tried so hard to keep my head up,but I could not help feeling so ashamed that I thought I really was a criminal who had committed a serious crime,” she told the Daily.

To make the humiliation even worse,local television networks were allowed to film the gathering.

While Duan incident took place eight months ago,last Tuesday,17 men and women in Ankang,Shanxi Province were forced to march in front of thousands of farmers with large wooden signs hung around their necks displaying their names.

Their crime: sabotaging a public construction project and disturbing social order.

When ever Duan hear the incidents Public Shaming,they remind of her own humiliation.

“I just thought of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when I was humiliated,” Duan said,referring to ugly scenes common during that time when people who had been accused of wrongdoing were publicly paraded and harangued by large crowds.

Duan feels she is being watched whenever she walks along the streets and do not dare to go out.

Defending the action against Duan,the local government of Fuping in a statement yesterday said “only several hundred people” attended the gathering.

The assembly was held to openly announce the punishment against Duan and enhance the transparency of law enforcement,an act that is not illegal,it said.

“Duan and Qiao Zhuanli (the other woman accused) are using the media to exert pressure on the government in order to fulfil their unreasonable petition demand,” the statement said.

Local authorities argue that they have to use special measures to deal with special problems.

“You should understand our difficulties,” Deng Xiaohong of the publicity department at Hanbin district,Ankang said.

“This is a special measure to deal with serious crimes,and it has played an important role in educating the masses,” a government response published in the Shanghai-based ‘Oriental Morning Post’ said.

“Public shaming is still used to deter criminals in modern China,especially at the local level of the criminal justice system,where society is still ruled by might and not the law,” Mao Shoulong,a professor at Renmin University of China,told the newspaper.

In 2010,more than 20 public humiliation campaigns were carried out on criminals,suspects,and even prostitutes,based on media reports.

“It is a clear violation of the law and tramples on human rights,” He Bingsong,a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law said.

A suspect is not guilty until he or she is convicted,which means public humiliation of a suspect is against the law,he added.

In July,the government called for an end to the practice of publicly humiliating criminal suspects following online complaints over the parading of prostitutes in Shenzhen,Guangdong Province.

Similar rules and regulations have been passed down through the years,beginning in 1988,when the Supreme People’s Court ordered prosecutors and police to protect the identities of the accused.

n 2007,the country’s top judicial and law enforcement bodies issued a similar notice forbidding the parading of convicts.

“For a country like China where human rights remain a novel concept,it is not surprising that the police emphasize crime control and use public shaming as a way to deter criminals,” Mao said.

He believes that it will be a long time before the practice is stopped,as it is deeply rooted in the structure and ideology of the justice system.

However,he also believes that people who have been humiliated in public should step forward to protect their rights.

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