Common methods of torture and abuse in the People's Republic of China

Beatings and kicks



Almost every detainee in China has to, or has had to, suffer being beaten and kicked. This method of abuse, by far the most common, is often especially noticeable after release from detainment, as some victims possess extensive bruises and injuries on their bodies. However, a range of torture victims have reported that in the weeks prior to their release from camps or prisons they were no longer tormented by beatings and other methods of torture which leave obvious external marks. Beatings, like other methods of torture, inflict wounds upon victims which in most cases do not receive any medical attention, or receive it far too late. Infections and more serious pain caused further abuse are the consequence.

With leather belt and belt buckle
The victim lies on the ground or stands against the wall and is flogged with the leather belt from the guard's uniform. Significant pain results from this action, in particular from the belt buckle, and occasionally serious injuries to the head area occur.


With cables
Beatings with a cable are described as being even more painful than abuse perpetrated with a belt.


Kicks and punches
Both of these techniques are employed widely, and are sometimes directed at the genitals or other particularly sensitive body parts. Reports exist that victims have been repeatedly hit and kicked until they have lost consciousness.


By other detainees
Other detainees, with the prospect of the length or severity of their imprisonment being reduced, comply with the demands of the security guards and beat and kick the victim.


With clubs and other heavy, blunt objects
The blows are often carried out against especially sensitive body parts, including the head, genitals and joints. There are isolated reports of victims being hit with hammers.


Beatings to the buttocks
This type of torture is also referred to as "to pass the board". The victim is hit with a board, club or cane, sometimes hundereds of times. This results in severe bruises and, in some cases, open wounds.


With prickly or stinging plants
Blows carried out with thorn-covered or barbed plants cause very painful skin injuries. Some reports have stated that stinging nettle plants were also applied in order to intensify the pain.


With a club with protruding nails
The victim is hit with a club, piece of wood or bar from which nails are protruding. This method causes some of the worst injuries, which can sometimes be fatal.

Contortion and excessive twisting of limbs



Twisting of the arms
The arms of the victim are twisted forcefully behind their back.


Overstretching of the legs I
The victim stands in open space with straight legs. They must be bent over with their head down as far as possible and fingers pointing towards the floor. This method is often coupled with the "aeroplane method" (see below: being forced to remain in a painful position). The victim must stand in front of a wall with closed, straight legs and must also place their hands stretched out sideways up on the wall.



Overstretching of the legs II ("Tiger bank")
The victim is tied down at the thighs and the knees on a narrow wooden or iron bench. Their hands are tied or handcuffed behind their back. Boards or bricks are positioned at certain distances under the feet. The victim's legs become overstretched and the victim suffers excruciating pain.

Overstretching of the legs III
The head of the sitting victim is pushed down until the forehead touches the thighs.



"Bed press"
The victim is made to sit on the floor with legs out straight. Their head and upper body are then pushed down against their legs. The victim is fixed in this position by bonds and forced under a bed. Torturers or other detainees subsequently climb onto the bed and jump up and down.

Overstretching of the ankles
The toes of the sitting victim are pushed outwards so that the outside edges of the feet are touching the floor, upon which the torturers will usually stand or jump on the victim's feet.

VTwisting and overstretching of the upper arms
The hands of the victim are bound behind the back - one hand twisted from above over the shoulder, and the other hand twisted from below over the lower back. The hands are then pulled very close together and handcuffs are attached. With this type of torture the victims are usually unconscious or delirious after about twenty minutes. Regardless of this, prisoners are tortured for up to four hours in this way. According to reports, in some cases victims have been additionally forced to "dance" in order to worsen the pain.

Lifting of arms twisted behind the back
The arms of the victim are twisted behind the back and bound with a thin rope. The arms of the victim are then pulled upwards, thus becoming overstretched and often dislocated. The rope cuts into the victim's flesh. The pain is so severe that the victim sometimes loses control over their bladder. According to reports, there have been cases of death when victims have been abused repeatedly in this way.

Being forced to remain in a painful position


The victim must - often over several days and in some cases whilst tied up - remain in a certain position. This punishment is often combined with deprivation of food, water or sleep.

Squatting and standing cells
The height of the cage is lower than that of the victim. The dimensions are measured so that the victim can neither stand upright nor lie down. Furthermore, the victim is often chained to the bars of the cell with handcuffs. The pain, which arises after a short time due to the unnatural posture, is so unbearable that thirst, sleep deprivation, hunger etc almost become an afterthought.

Standing still for a long period<BRThe victim stands in the blistering sun, with feet on the hot ground, and sometimes without shoes or socks. Apart from the agony caused by standing for so long, the victim also suffers sunburn.</P>

Standing outside in winter
The victim must stay outside overnight in the biting cold or stand on snow or ice. Depending on the length of the torture, this can lead to frostbite of the toes or even the feet.

Standing on a chair("to exhaust an eagle")
The victim stands on a high chair or stool. In some cases, victims in this position must stretch their arms upwards. As soon as the victim falls off the chair from exhaustion, they are beaten and then forced to get back up on the chair.

Standing on one leg for a long time
The victim is forced to hold their balance on one leg. If that cannot be done, or if the victim falls over from exhaustion, they are kicked and beaten.

Standing on bricks
The victim must stand on a tower of bricks with their hands above their head and tied to the ceiling. As soon as the victim loses balance, the tower collapses and the victim hangs in the air.


The victim stands bent over with their head down towards the floor and hands stretched out sideways and upwards (like the wings of an aeroplane) against the wall.

Standing at a 90° angle
With their hands behind their head, the victim must hold their upper body bent over at a 90° angle.

Sitting in an iron chair
The victim is tied to a metal chair, sometimes for more than a week. The victim is thereby forced to empty their bowels on this chair and then sit in their excrement. In addition to the humiliation, the victim's buttocks become raw and painful.
Sitting on a board with a jagged pattern
This involves sitting on an iron panel which has sharp embossment and indentations. After a period of time, bleeding wounds develop. Infections occur frequently.

Sitting on jagged objects
The victim must sit on jagged or angular objects for a long period of time and is not allowed to move.

Sitting on a broom
Das Opfer The victim is forced to sit on a broom handle over a long period of time. If they are not able to do this, they are punished with a beating.

Squatting for a long period
The victim has to squat down on two legs, hold their head with their hands and rest their elbows on their thighs. This causes the legs to become numb and pain to spread throughout the whole body.

Squatting for an extremely long period
The victim is forced to remain in a squatting position over a very long period of time. The victim may prop themselves up with their hands but after a while blood blisters develop on the hands. Victims are observed over the entire period, usually by fellow prisoners, who have been offered privileges to monitor the victim and face punishment if they allow the victim to rest.
The extremely long period of squatting is combined with sleep deprivation. If the victim falls over, they are immediately forced to take up the squatting position again. This occurs until the victim collapses. After this, the victim will in some cases be forced to carry out a new bout of squatting. Victims suffer from paralysis and long-lasting pain, amongst other things. In the longest case known to the ISHR, a young woman was forced to squat for an entire month. Her subsequent fate is unknown.

"Military squatting"
The victim is forced into a squat with one foot placed a short distance behind the other. Only half of the sole of the back foot touches the ground and the back foot thus bears most of the body weight. This method usually causes pain within a few minutes, particularly in the back foot and leg. Sometimes it leads to a complete loss of feeling and control in the leg.

Squatting within a square
The victim must squat on a floor tile measuring 30 x 30 cm. Their head must be raised and their feet are not allowed to go outside the boundary of the square.

Wide-legged squatting ("riding a horse")
The victim has to squat wide-legged and both arms must be stretched out in front, parallel to the ground.

Squatting in a corner
The victim is forced into a corner of the room with the help of tables and boards and must squat there in the tiny space.

Squatting with raised heels
The victim must squat above nails which are attached to the floor underneath the victim's heels. The heels must be kept raised to avoid touching the nails.
Squatting or standing whilst bound to bars
In this position it is again impossible for the victim to sleep or eat.

Bound to a heating pipe
Over a long period of time, the victim is bound with handcuffs to a hot heating pipe.
Standing, kneeling, squatting or sitting with bound arms
The arms of the victims are bound with handcuffs either behind the back or between the legs. Often shackles are added to the feet as well. The victim cannot sleep, stand, use the toilet or eat.
Often, for weeks afterwards, the victim can only move half squatting and stooped over.
"To bear a sword on the back"
This position leads especially quickly to the onset of pain and paralysis.

Kneeling on bricks, ashtrays or other jagged objects
The victim must kneel down. Bricks, ashtrays, jagged pieces of wood or other similar objects are positioned under the knees.

Hanging over a bar
The victim has to hang upside down over a bar. The lower legs lie over the bar and the victim has to grasp their knees with their hands. The body weight is borne especially by the backs of the knees. This method of torture is described as being especially painful.
"Hell shackles"
Pincer-like clamps cut into the ankles and wrists of the victim. A victim in "hell shackles" cannot stand, squat, move or sleep.

Bound to a "death board"
This punishment is often coupled with isolation. For weeks the victim is bound to a wooden board with all limbs outstretched and fixed down. The victim is permanently chained and must be fed by other detainees. Victims also have to sleep on the board and lie in their urine and excrement. Some of the victims are stripped naked prior to being chained to the board. This type of torture leads to decubitous ulcers.


To be hung up with handcuffs causes severe pain in even the 'mildest' of cases. The Chinese security agencies vary this type of torute in very brutal ways.

Hanging by the hands ("to hang up a cage")
The hands of the victim are bound. The police then pull the hands of the victim over the victim's head and hang them up until their feet no longer touch the ground. A variation of this method is to hang the victim from a tree or pole using handcuffs.

Hanging by the feet ("large hanging")
The victim is hung upside down by the feet.

"Bodice" "(straitjacket )
The "bodice" consists of a piece of cloth with sleeves. The sleeves are longer than the arms and are equipped with special ties. With these ties the arms of the victim are crossed and bound behind the back and then pulled forcefully over the head to the chest. With this violent upwards wrenching of the arms, the shoulder joints are dislocated and the elbows and wrists are broken. In some cases, victims have subsequently been hung up upside down by both feet in indescribable pain.

Electric shocks


Victims have been abused by being given up to a dozen simultaneous electric shocks, sometimes over several hours. The victims receive electric shocks all over the face, including in the eyes, as well as in the genitals, nipples and other sensitive body parts. Electric shocks are also applied in the mouth and vagina. The electric shocks leave behind burn marks. These wounds often become inflamed and make further electric shocks even more painful.


Forced feeding

Prisoners consistently engage in hunger strikes in order to protest against the conditions of their imprisonment or the lack of legal basis for their detention. Such detainees are usually punished with forced feeding. However, the purpose of forced feeding carried out by the police is not actual nourishment. Rather, it is done to break the will and resistance of the victim.

Insertion of a tube through the nose
A tube is inserted without any lubricant through the nose and into the stomach of the victim. The tube is not put in place by medical personnel, but rather by the security guards. Injuries are simply accepted as a matter of course.

Tube repeatedly inserted and pulled out
The tube is removed and then inserted over and over again. Some victims have died from this, presumably because of aspirated blood.


Infusion of sharp, repulsive or hot substances
Substances such as salt solution, vinegar, alcohol, red pepper, urine or faeces are infused via the tube into the victim. This leads to severe nausea, among other things. Very hot or boiling water is also sometimes used (see below).Leaving the tube in the stomach
In the case of some victims, the tube is left in the stomach for hours. Since the victims are bound, they cannot pull it out themselves.

Forcible opening of the mouth
In some cases the victim is also "fed" through the mouth. In order to force the victim to open the mouth, the police use brute force. Often other detainees are compelled to forcibly open the victim's mouth with iron spoons or other hard objects.

Burning and scalding



Fingers, toes, faces, genitals, nipples and other body parts are burnt with cigarettes. According to reports, there have been cases where victims have been forced to swallow a burning cigarette.

Glowing iron rod
Serious burns have been inflicted upon some victims with red-hot iron rods. Due to the hygenics conditions in the camps and prisons in China it is almost inevitable that such injuries subsequently become infected.

Pouring hot water over the head
Very hot water is poured over the victim's head in order to scald it.

Infusion of boiling water
Very hot or boiling water is fed into the victims's mouth or nose via a tube. Internal scalding is caused.


Hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation

Some victims are provided with very inadequate amounts of food, sometimes over a long period of time. In some cases prisoners receive no food ration at all for days. Some victims have developed severe hunger oedema, whilst others have become totally emaciated and too weak to stand up.

Over several days the victim has access to a very inadequate amount of water. As a punishment or simply out of neglect, some prisoners occasionally receive no water at all.

Sleep deprivation
The victim is prevented from sleeping for several days. Measures used to achieve this include tying the victim up in a painful position, constant lighting, noise, and especially beatings, kicks and other types of punishment if the victim attempts to lie down.
Sleep deprivation is regarded as torture under international law and is branded as such by the United Nations. Sleep deprivation may sound quite harmless in comparison to other methods of torture; however, ongoing sleep deprivation is an extraordinarily cruel form of torture which leads to a breakdown of the nervous system and to other serious physical and psychological damage.

Sexual violence

Rape / mass rape
Women who are detained for political reasons are locked up in cells with male criminals. In some cases the women have already been stripped naked. The prison guards order the criminals to rape the women or at least insinuate that they can violate the women without punishment. Detainees have also been raped by guards. Male political prisoners are also victims of sexual violence perpetrated by homosexual prisoners or guards.

Insertion of objects
Various objects are inserted into the vagina or anus of the victim, such as bottles, sticks and brushes.

Other forms of sexual violence
The perversion of some members of the security agencies in the People's Republic of China knows no boundaries. On this topic it is much harder for victims to give an account of the harm they have suffered. When they do in fact provide details, they usually request that it is not reported further.




Isolation in dark cells
Small cells sometimes provide a surface area of only three square metres. Isolation cells generally do not have a window, a bed, water or a toilet. Victims are locked up in this type of small cell for months and must eat, sleep and relieve themselves there. As the cell is less than 1.5 metres high, it is impossible to stand upright. Sometimes, to intensify the torture, the victim's hands are tied to the cell door so that the victim cannot sleep for days on end. In addition, water is poured onto the ground to make sleep even more difficult.

"Water dungeon"
The victim is locked up naked in an iron cage and lowered down into water until it reaches their throat. The victim cools down very quickly and cannot sit or sleep. If they become unconscious, they drown. According to reports, some of these cages are spiked with nails so that the victim cannot lean against anything.

Ban on eye contact and conversations
The victim is forbidden from having any conversation or eye contact with his or her fellow detainees.


Stabbings and lacerations

Inserting sharp objects under the fingernails
The insertion of sharp objects such as bamboo sticks, needles or nails under the fingernails is widespread. In at least one known case, a doctor inserted cannulae under the fingernails of the bound victim.

Piercing of the fingertips
Sharp bamboo sticks are forced, often with a hammer, through the fingertips and under the fingernails of the victim. Usually, this completely removes the fingernail. The stick is initially pushed into one finger. In some case, all fingers are "dealt with" in succession.
Piercing of body parts
Lips, nipples, genitals and, for instance, the skin of the back are pierced with sharp objects such as needles and nails. In at least one case, thick cannulae were inserted into the knee joint of a victim and moved violently back and forth.

Cuts and lacerations
The victim's skin is cut with knives, razor blades or glass shards.

Injuries to the nose and ears
Small shards or sticks are pushed into the nose or ears of the victim. The piercing of the eardrum is especially painful.

Psychiatric abuse

There are known cases in which victims are placed in psychiatric detention for purely political reasons, for example because they campaigned for democracy and freedom of opinion or because they practised Buddhist meditation. Usually they are not facing any charges and have not received any sentence. Yet without a sentence the detainment also lacks any specified time limitation. Victims are simply placed indefinitely in detention by virtue of a decision of a public authority. Even the theoretical hope of some kind of appeals procedure does not exist.

Sane prisoners in mental institutions
A range of entirely sane victims are admitted to closed mental institutions even though they show no indication of mental illness. There they have been, and still are being, not only robbed of their freedom but also locked up together with people who really are mentally ill and occasionally violent.

Injections of drugs in psychiatric detention
Political prisoners are systematically abused with pharmacological substances. The substances administered include psychotropic drugs. More precise details about the substances administered are unfortunately not known to the ISHR.


"Plastic bag"
A plastic bag is put over the head of the victim. The victim then experiences panic.

Head pushed into a bucket of water or urine
The head of the victim is pushed forcefully into a bucket of water or urine either until the victim becomes unconscious or just prior to this. Even the pushing down on the head is painful.
Inserting water into the mouth
A large amount of water is put into the mouth of the victim and their nose is held. Choking and feelings of suffocation and panic result from this.

The victim is strangled around the neck with a rope, belt, cloth or some similar object.

Abuse with animals



The police threaten the victim with a dog attack or provoke a dog into biting the victim.

The victim is tied up outside wearing very little clothing or nothing at all. In some regions of the People's Republic of China this inevitably leads to an enormous number of mosquito bites. It is known from the GULag (system of concetration camps) of the Soviet Union that there have been cases in which victims have been killed in this manner.

Some reports state that victims have been intimidated with snakes. In one case a victim's hands were put into a sack containing a snake.

Further methods of torture and abuse



Breaking fingers and other bones
Breaking the victim's fingers is an especially common type of abuse. Victims are confronted with the threat that their fingers will be broken one after the other if they do not comply with the will of the torturers (for example to sign an explanation or confession, or to renounce the practice of Buddhist meditation Falun Gong).

Dislocation of joints
The dislocation of the fingers, or perhaps the arm or shoulder joints, usually occurs in a similar way to the breaking of the fingers (see above). The same applies when needles are pushed under the fingernails (see above).

Refusal of sufficient medical care
People who are ill when they are detained or become ill whilst in detention are punished in part by being denied essential medical care and even pain killers. External as well as internal injuries commonly occur through abuse or torture. The refusal to provide victims with appropriate medical care or attend to their injuries promptly further intensifies and prolongs their suffering.

Extremely loud noise played through headphones
Over a long period of time the bound victim is exposed to extremely loud music or propaganda tapes via headphones.

Bruising by crushing
The hand of the victim is squashed in between two boards or in a door. Bruising of the skin occurs very frequently.

Red pepper
Red pepper is put into the eyes or nose of the victim.

Lack of access to a toilet
Over several days the victim is refused access to a toilet or bucket. The victim is thus forced to empty their bowels on the floor of their cell and, if they are tied up, to lie or sit in their urine and excrement.

Running over a long period of time
The victim must run without stopping, sometimes for longer than ten hours. If the victim is exhausted, other prisoners are ordered to urge the victim on. When the victim cannot even be forced to keep running by being beaten and kicked, other detainees are commanded to drag the victim along behind them.

"To plug the mouth"
Dirty rags are stuffed into the victim's mouth in order to silence the victim. The same aim is achieved when the mouth is taped up.

Pouring ice cold water over the head
A bucket of ice cold water is poured over the head of the victim. Particularly in winter the drenched (and in some cases naked) victim suffers severe hypothermia.

Running in chains
Some victims are bound in handcuffs and chains and are forced to run for long periods without stopping. Since the victims - because of the running and their exhaustion - cannot coordinate their movement, they are caused severe pain by the handcuffs and chains.