BEIJING - The exoneration of a man wrongfully executed 18 years ago has again thrown a spotlight on China's widespread use of torture to extract confessions from criminal suspects.
In an unusually candid editorial Tuesday, a state government newspaper acknowledged that local police regularly torture suspects, resulting in numerous cases where innocent people are convicted and even executed for crimes they did not commit.
"It has not been rare for higher authorities to exert pressure on local public security departments and judiciary to crack serious murder cases," said the editorial in the English-language China Daily. "Nor has it been rare for the police to extort confessions through torture. . . . Suspects have been sentenced without solid evidence except for extorted confessions."
In recent years, state media and government officials have acknowledged police use of torture but have tended to treat it as a regrettable remnant of the past. Tuesday's China Daily editorial suggests that some parts of the government feel the need to be more forthright about police practices, even as China skewers the United States for last week's report on CIA use of torture.
The case in question involves a man, Huugjilt, who at age 18 was arrested for raping and murdering a woman at a textile factory in Hwohhot, the capital of China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region. According to state media, police took just 48 hours to obtain a confession from Huugjilt. He was executed in June 1996, just 61 days after he was convicted.
Nine years later, another man confessed to the murder. That prompted the Inner Mongolia High People's Court to retry the case last month. On Monday, the court overturned Huugjilt's conviction, saying there was insufficient evidence in the initial verdict.
According to state media, a court official arrived Monday morning at Huugjilt's home and provided his mother, Shang Aiyun, with an apology and the equivalent of $4,500 in compensation. Huugjilt's mother spent nearly a decade trying to clear his name.