- Yu Qiyi held in detention for 38 days on suspicion of corruption in a land deal
- Coroner said he had inhaled fluids that caused his lungs to malfunction
- ‘Shuanggui’ interrogations try to force officials to confess wrongdoings
PUBLISHED: 11:25 EST, 4 September 2013 | UPDATED: 11:34 EST, 4 September 2013
Chinese chief engineer Yu Qiyi was tortured to death by Communist Party officials
The chief engineer of a state-owned Chinese company was tortured to death by Communist Party officials who repeatedly dunked his head into a tub of icy water, in an attempt to extract a confession for corruption, it has been claimed.
Mr Yu Qiyi, who was in his early 40s, had his head held underwater by six investigators after being been held for 38 days in detention in the city of Wenzhou.
A coroner’s report concluded that Mr Yu had died after inhaling fluids that caused his lungs to malfunction – an official way of saying he drowned.
The state-run Beijing Times newspaper, published photographs of several bruises on the body of Mr Yu Qiyi, and claimed he had been tortured during a severe interrogation process know as shuanggui in which officials are asked to confess wrongdoings.
The investigators will now be tried for intentional assault.
A Communist Party member of the Wenzhou Industry Investment Group, Mr Qiyi was said by his wife, Wu Qian, to have been ‘a strong man before the shuanggui process, but he was thin by the time he died.’
Yu’s family says the injuries are proof that he was beaten, starved and otherwise tortured by investigators in the eastern city of Wenzhou where he lived.
‘He was thin like a beggar,’ said Wu Qian, describing seeing Yu on April 9 in a local hospital. ‘He was lying there so pitifully. … Anywhere that we could see, there were injuries on his body.’
Under shuanggui interrogations, suspects are whisked away into a shadowy detention. It operates beyond the law, with people held for weeks and months at a time with no regard for the normal, if often ignored, legal protections Chinese citizens are supposed to be entitled to.
Mr Yu Qiyi was picked up on suspicion of corruption in a land deal in the city of eastern Chinese city Wenzhou where he lived and worked
Defenders of the system say party investigators need unchecked power to prevent officials suspected of malfeasance from using their influence to block such inquiries.
By keeping them in solitary confinement, the argument goes, officials are unable contact others who might be implicated or police or judges they might have influence over.
And it has been used against powerful officials, most recently Bo Xilai, a high-ranking politician brought down in spectacular style last year following his wife’s involvement in the murder of a British businessman.
The former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, who now faces charges of taking bribes and abusing his power, also was under the party’s investigative detention system.
Yu was wanted for questioning for possible corruption in a land deal when he was picked up by investigators.
Run by the party’s Discipline Inspection Commission, the investigations have time limits of up to six months and usually take place in hotels or guesthouses, according to a 2010 book on arbitrary detention in China by legal scholar Flora Sapio.
High-ranking Chinese politician Bo Xilai was also subjected to the shuanggui torture process
Detainees are guarded even when they use the toilet, Sapio writes, and are subject to sleep deprivation and beatings.
Because the targets and interrogators are party members and are bound by the party’s disciplinary code, the process is girded in silence, its details mostly kept out of public view.
When the probe is concluded, investigators sometimes turn the suspect along with selected evidence to prosecutors for what is often a perfunctory prosecution with guilt a foregone conclusion.
No figures are made public on the number of people put through the party’s detention system annually. Shen said the number of corruption cases the party investigates — about 150,000 cases last year — provides some indication, though the detentions are likely to be far higher since each case usually involves multiple suspects.
The attention that Yu’s case has brought comes at an inconvenient time for the party. There is growing pressure from legal reformers and the public to do away with another form of punishment with flimsy legal underpinnings: a system that allows police to jail people in labor camps for up to four years without a court trial or judicial review.
Because recently installed President Xi Jinping came to power pledging to root out widespread corruption, the shuanggui detentions may be used even more frequently, not less — setting back legal reforms.
‘The use of shuanggui delivers not justice, but selective and vindictive prosecutions often based on torture, and will do little to straighten out China’s rotten officialdom,’ Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang said.
Before he died, Yu, a party member since 1998, had been a rising figure in the Wenzhou Industry Investment Group, a state-owned company that according to its website invests in energy and other industries and manages 4.6 billion yuan ($750 million) in assets. Yu had been appointed by provincial leaders for a temporary assignment at the Cabinet agency in Beijing that oversees China’s biggest state-owned companies.
He was arriving back from the capital on March 1 but instead of being picked up as usual by his ex-wife, Wu, who was waiting in the car outside, he made a hurried phone call before being whisked away by investigators. It was the last time she heard his voice.
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