Amnesty International Blasts China For Exporting "Torture Devices" All Over The World

Amnesty International has made a disturbing discovery about one of China's biggest trades. Over the last decade, China has drastically increased its development and manufacturing of law enforcement equipment. However, according to Amnesty, many of China's products are considered torture devices, and the human rights organization is advocating for an end to their trade and export — particularly to countries where there is a risk that this equipment will be abused.

China's law enforcement equipment is predominantly manufactured by large, state-owned companies, the number of which has grown more than four times in the last decade, from 28 to 130. As a result, the companies have also expanded their selection of products in recent years. Many of these products, Amnesty found, were "intrinsically cruel," and have been abused.

The report, which was in collaboration with the Omega Research Foundation, found that this rising market coincided with the continuing human rights violations within China's law enforcement, particularly when dealing with detainees. Though China has attempted to reform its detention practices, Amnesty has found that the new legislation still falls short of international human rights law. The organization continues to receive reports of Chinese law enforcement employing methods of torture, including using equipment designed for that exact purpose.

On its website, Amnesty wrote:

Amnesty International and Omega found evidence of what appear to be Chinese manufactured electric shock batons being carried by police in Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Madagascar.
Chinese companies also continue to export equipment that can only have a legitimate use in law enforcement if its use is consistent with international standards and officers are well trained and fully accountable. However, the report cites cases of exports of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment from China to countries where there is a substantial risk the equipment will contribute to serious human rights violations.

Also perpetuating China's torture trade is the complete lack of transparency in how it operates. The Chinese government never makes public its decisions to deny or grant export licenses to the manufacturing companies, making it impossible to monitor whether the companies are following the appropriate protocol.

And then there's the issue of regulation. While Chinese export control legislation and regulations cover conventional weapons, such as firearms and ammunition, they do not cover the products in question. Nor is there any "clear demarcation between the various agencies involved in the export control process."

What Are These Torture Devices?

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The equipment under question in the report include mechanical restraints, such as handcuffs, leg cuffs, thumb cuffs, and restraint chairs; electric shock weapons, such as electric shock batons, stun guns, and stun shields; spiked batons; toxic chemical irritants like tear gas and pepper spray; rubber bullets; and law enforcement vehicles like water cannons and armored vehicles.

Some of these devices, such as handcuffs, may have been designed to maintain peace, when used in accordance with international standards for law enforcement, but they are easily — and often — abused.

And some of these devices, according to Amnesty, are inherently cruel and have no legitimate use for law enforcement. This includes spiked batons, restraint chairs, and electric shock batons. These products pose "a substantial risk of, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Where Do They End Up?

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Outside of China, many of these products are falling into dangerous hands. While the EU has prohibited these so-called instruments of torture, many countries continue to import and employ these products with little regulation. For example, in June 2008, the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia reported an unsanctioned shipment of weapons and security equipment to the Liberian Special Security Services from China.

In 2011, Uganda, which is known for its human rights violations and "torture and ill-treatment by the police," reportedly received a shipment of anti-riot equipment from China. Later that year, the Democratic Republic of Congo's security forces used anti-riot police vehicles from the same manufacturer that supplied the Ugandan police.

And Madagascar also received riot gear, including rubber projectiles and tear gas, from China in 2009, when there was extreme political unrest in the country.

What Should Be Done?

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In conclusion, Amnesty International is calling for "fundamental reforms" in the legislation, standards, and practice of China's law enforcement equipment industry. These new laws must "remove any substantial risk of such equipment being used for torture and other ill-treatment and repression." Furthermore, the new legislation must ban the manufacture, trade, and export of specific "tools of torture."

On its site, Amnesty writes:

Amnesty International and Omega are urging the Chinese authorities and those of all other countries to:
- impose an immediate ban on the production and trade of inherently abusive equipment
- immediately suspend or deny trade lisences for the supply of other equipment to law enforcement agencies and forces where there is a substantial risk the equipment will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations
- establish export control regulations and practices for the control of security and police equipment that can have a legitimate use but is easy to abuse
- end all torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, as well as the use of arbitrary force, and investigate all allegations of such acts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Images: Getty Images (3), Amnesty International