Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police

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In this April 9, 2014 photo, lawyer Tang Jitian waits in an emergency room as a doctor checks his X-ray photo at a hospital in Beijing. Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this April 9, 2014 photo, lawyer Tang Jitian waits in an emergency room as a doctor checks his X-ray photo at a hospital in Beijing. Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Monday, April 7, 2014 photo released by Xiang Li, Chinese rights lawyers, from left, Wang Cheng, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian sit on a sofa at a restaurant in Beijing. Wang, Jiang and Tang are among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. They had joined several people in shouting to demand information about relatives believed locked up inside because they were members of Falun Gong – banned as a cult though they claim to be a peaceful spiritual movement. (AP Photo/Xiang Li)

In this Monday, April 7, 2014 photo released by Xiang Li, Chinese rights lawyer Tang Jitian shows the bruises on his leg, which he claims were sustained when he was beaten by police in a detention facility, at a restaurant in Beijing, China. Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. They had joined several people in shouting to demand information about relatives believed locked up inside because they were members of Falun Gong – banned as a cult though they claim to be a peaceful spiritual movement. (AP Photo/Xiang Li)

In this Monday, April 7, 2014 photo released by Xiang Li, Chinese lawyer Jiang Tianyong rolls up his shirts to show bruises on his body, which he claims were sustained from being beaten by police, at a restaurant in Beijing. Jiang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. They had joined several people in shouting to demand information about relatives believed locked up inside because they were members of Falun Gong – banned as a cult though they claim to be a peaceful spiritual movement. (AP Photo/Xiang Li)

In this April 9, 2014 photo, lawyer Tang Jitian holds his X-ray photo as he waits to see a doctor about his back pains at a hospital in Beijing. Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who allege they were tortured by police after being rounded up in late March outside a detention center in a farming community on the northeastern edge of China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

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BEIJING (AP) — His head covered in a black hood, lawyer Tang Jitian recalls being taken into a room and hearing the sound of a rope being pulled. The handcuffs behind him were jerked upward and soon he was dangling in the air.

“I got hoisted with my head facing down, feet off the ground and butt in the air,” Tang said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Five or six people were hitting me and kicking me. All I heard was ‘thud, thud, thud,’ throughout.”

Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who say they were tortured by police when they were rounded up in late March after protesting outside a detention center in Jiansanjiang, a farming community in northeastern China. They had joined several people shouting to demand information about relatives believed locked up inside because they were members of Falun Gong — banned as a cult though they claim to be a peaceful spiritual movement.

Three of the lawyers spoke to the AP about the abuse, and one of them provided hospital records showing bone fractures after being in police custody.

Their accounts raise doubts about commitments by Chinese authorities to curb the use of torture, establish rule of law and ensure due process for those accused of wrongdoing. Their experience is part of a broad crackdown over the past year on rights lawyers and other activists seeking to hold authorities accountable to the country’s constitution and to their own stated goals of boosting fairness in Chinese society.

The detention center the lawyers were investigating is one of many informal jails nationwide officially known as “legal education centers” where an unknown number of people are believed detained without trial or access to lawyers. Activists say beatings and torture are common. They have existed since about 1999, first mainly to house and punish Falun Gong practitioners but over time also used for others deemed irritants by authorities.

The campaign by rights groups, including the four lawyers who say they were beaten, is aimed at pressuring the Chinese Communist Party to eliminate all forms of arbitrary detention, or so-called “black jails,” after it made a high-profile pronouncement in November that it would end its much-maligned labor camp system.

“China’s legal system is regressing,” said Wang Jianxun, a legal scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law. “I have seen no sign of progress, but rather that the overall conditions are deteriorating.”

Police declined to address the allegations of torture, or field any questions about the Jiansanjiang

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