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The New York Times: Drawings of Police Torture Seize China’s Attention

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The New York Times
By Vanessa Piao and Austin Ramzyaug.
August 10, 2015

BEIJING — The hand-drawn images are bizarre and disturbing. One shows a man locked in a cage while a police officer pours boiling water on his head. Another shows him suspended from the ceiling by handcuffs as an officer jabs his side with an electric baton.

The inscription on the drawing of the police abusing Liu Renwang
reads: "Many people beat and tortured me coutless times."
Courtesy of Liu Renwang
They are amateurishly drawn, with faces showing strangely neutral expressions amid scenes of severe cruelty. Yet they have captured public attention in China for their candid depiction of abuse by the police.

"Sticking cotton swabs into my ears and not letting me sleep,
damaging my hearing."
Courtesy of Liu Renwang
Although such abuse has often been reported by foreign human rights groups and occasionally by Chinese reporters as well, the Chinese news media have rarely carried any representations of the subject as graphic as the drawings, which depict the ordeal of a man wrongly convicted of murder.

The man, Liu Renwang, was accused of shooting to death a village official in Shanxi Province in 2008. He says the drawings show how the local police went about extracting a confession from him for a crime he did not commit.

A court in Shanxi sentenced Mr. Liu to death in 2010, but the sentence was suspended. Two years later, the case was reinvestigated, and he was given life imprisonment instead. The conviction was overturned on appeal in 2013, and the killing remains unsolved.

Mr. Liu’s case would normally have attracted little attention. But The Paper, a state-run online publication based in Shanghai, reported on his case over the weekend, and included the images depicting abuse.

Mr. Liu, 53, said he had the drawings made in his effort to win compensation from the local authorities for what had been done to him.

“I wanted to let people know how the police would use torture in interrogations,” he said by telephone on Monday. The abuses included pouring liquid down his nose and forcing him to go without sleep, he said.
He said the officers who tortured him were from the Zhongyang County Public Security Bureau. A woman who answered the phone at the bureau on Monday afternoon said she did not know about the case and declined to comment.

"Hung up for a day and a night and given electric
shocks. One or two hours each time, causing me
to lose consciousness."
Courtesy of Liu Renwang
Mr. Liu said that he had asked several painters in Zhongyang to illustrate his experiences but that they all turned him down for fear of retaliation by the police. Eventually a painter in Hunan Province agreed to draw the pictures for him.

“He expressed sympathy regarding my experience and said he could do it,” Mr. Liu said. He said the painter drew six cartoons for him and charged him 100 renminbi, or about $16.

The Paper published the drawings at a time when the Chinese courts are increasingly focusing on wrongful convictions, particularly in death penalty cases, and trying to reduce errors and avoid the potential social unrest that could be set off by the executions of innocent people.

Liu Renwang said he was hung up for 24 hours
"and given electric shocks."
Courtesy of Liu Renwang
“We deeply reproach ourselves for letting wrongful convictions happen,” Zhou Qiang, chief justice and president of the Supreme People’s Court of China, said in March, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency. “Courts of all levels should learn a serious lesson from these cases.”

Legal experts say the Chinese police are under great pressure to solve capital crimes, and that pressure can contribute to wrongful convictions, often through forced confessions in cases where there is little or no other evidence of guilt.

"Pouring boiling water on my head and preventing
me from sleeping for up to eight days."
Courtesy of Liu Renwang
Mr. Liu said in the telephone interview that he was not afraid of possible retaliation from the police over the drawings.

“I have died dozens of times,” he said. “Also, I’m telling the truth. So I have no fear.”

Mr. Liu, who was a truck driver, said his imprisonment was a major emotional and financial blow to his family. His wife was emotionally devastated and suffered from prolonged anxiety, Mr. Liu said, and his three children, who are now 23, 25 and 27, faced discrimination while he was in prison because their father was believed to be a killer.

He said he was seeking six million renminbi, or nearly $1 million, in compensation from the Lüliang Intermediate Court, which convicted him.

“After their interrogations, my hair turned gray, my hearing was damaged, and my lower back could not move properly,” Mr. Liu said. “My health has collapsed. I can do nothing now.”

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