HomeNewsUp to 30,000 people disappeared in China while held in ‘coercive custody,’...

Up to 30,000 people disappeared in China while held in ‘coercive custody,’ report says

A report done by a human rights organization has claimed that up to 30,000 people have disappeared in China’s ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ system since 2013.

The report by Safeguard Defenders titled “Rampant Repression” said that, on average, every day this year at least 20 people will be disappeared in China by the state.

The report, which was released on Aug. 30, said China uses the Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) system to disappear critics of the government.




The report claimed that China has been using a “system for disappearing” tens of thousands of people and has been expanding it every year since 2013.

Safeguard Defenders said thousands of people have been detained in a secret location, “in isolation, and held incommunicado for up to half a year” in China as of December 2019.

The measure is legal under Article 74 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law “as a form of coercive custody” that allows the state forces “to place a suspect under coercive measures for six months.”

Using data from court verdicts posted on the Supreme Court’s database, Safeguard Defenders estimated at least 29,000 people were placed into RSDL as of end of 2019.

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The group said the “real number of RSDL victims is much higher” because official data only publishes cases with verdicts and “perhaps significantly higher when we count those cases without verdicts.”

It said lawyers and families have no access to the whereabouts and condition of RSDL victims. “There is virtually no oversight. Torture is common,” read a statement released by the group.

The report showed that RSDL victims were held in custody “longer than the legal limit of 183 days.” It said that the use of RSDL constitutes torture because it “is a form of solitary confinement.”

In its statement, the Safeguard Defenders said there has been little attention paid on the system, “in part because China is so secretive about its operations.”

“That’s why it is so important that as much data as possible is gathered and exposed to shed more light on this abhorrent system,” it added.

The group said RSDL, which is supposedly a tool for investigation, “was used more often for punishment.”

Those who were taken are released from a lengthy stay in RSDL without their case going to indictment and trial, said the group.

The group said these cases never appear in the official data, “thus the numbers in our report are an underestimate.”

The group predicted that if not stopped, there will be more than 10,000 people yearly who will be disappeared into the RSDL system by 2022 or 2023.

“This is mass state-sanctioned kidnapping,” the group said, adding that it constitutes “widespread and systematic use of enforced disappearances.”

According to international laws, the “widespread or systematic use of enforced disappearances may constitute a crime against humanity,” which the Safeguard Defenders accused China of perpetuating since 2013.

“Anecdotal evidence collected through interviews shows RSDL victims are systematically denied access to legal counsel,” said the group.

They claimed that families or friends of those take are not notified as to where the person is being held.

The group said that when state forces do not inform families, the use of RSDL “qualifies as an enforced or involuntary disappearance.”

The report alleged that state security forces “often use facilities that are not legally allowed” for RSDL.

Safeguard Defenders called on the international community to condemn the Chinese regime “for this abusive custodial system and take every measure to urge for its abolition.”

“Otherwise, many more thousands of Chinese people will suffer and it may well be exported to other authoritarian governments, particularly in Southeast and Central Asia,” the group added.

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