May 16, 2006

China lauds solved murder rate, denies torture

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police had a better rate of
success at cracking murder cases last year than either the
United States or Britain, officials said on Monday, strongly
denying that forced confessions were behind the good results.

Of the more than 30,000 murder cases in China in 2005,
almost 90 percent were solved, and the number of people
murdered per 100,000 of the population was only just over 2,
far less than the 5.6 figure in the United States, police
officials said.

In the United States, 63 percent of murder cases were
cracked, they said.

The credit was due to good police work under the slogan
adopted in 2004 of "homicide cases must be broken," said He
Ting, head of the public security ministry's criminal
investigation department.

"The campaign has been greatly successful," He told a news
conference. "It was due to the blood and sweat of a million
police and security people."

In recent years, China has come under pressure not only
from foreign rights groups and the United Nations but also an
increasingly feisty domestic media to crack down on forced
confessions and torture after several infamous cases.

Last year, China freed a man who spent 11 years in jail for
allegedly murdering his wife after the woman turned up alive.
The man, She Xianglin, said he had confessed to the crime under

In another case, the children of a Chinese butcher executed
for murdering a waitress appealed against his conviction after
his "victim" turned up alive.

He said such cases were very rare.

"Over the past few years we have taken measures against the
practice of forced confessions. Such cases are happening less
and less now," he said.

"It is not a serious problem," He added, though he declined
to say if any incidents had come to light recently, or what
action was taken against police found to have used torture.

Late last year, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur
on Torture, said suspects in China were routinely beaten and
that police were under heavy pressure to extract confessions.

The Chinese government angrily rejected Nowak's comments,
but has in the past recognised there was a problem, last year
passing a bill mandating punishment for police who torture
detainees during interrogation.

He said interrogations were recorded and prosecutors
operated independently of police, asking detainees to sign
papers saying they were not forced into confessing crimes.

"Police chasing homicide cases must guarantee the quality
of their work and be impartial, enforcing the law and punishing
criminals and certainly not wronging innocent people," He said.

But he admitted there was still a problem solving murders
in certain areas, mainly in the poor, rural northwest and
western parts of the country, where police could also not
guarantee interrogations would be recorded.

"The country is very big, economic development uneven and
police resources are limited," he said.