China promised years ago to reform its legal system so suspects wouldn't be abused in custody, but according to a Human Rights Watch report out today authorities are flouting the rules and continuing their brutal methods, the AP reports. "Police are torturing criminal suspects to get them to confess to crimes, and courts are convicting people who confessed under torture," the HRW report says, per Reuters. The ominous 145-page "Tiger Chairs and Cell Bosses" was based on interviews with 48 ex-detainees (mostly accused of theft, selling drugs, or robbery), their families, lawyers, judges, and at least one former cop, Al Jazeera notes. The allegations are horrific: beatings, electrocution with batons, sleep and water deprivation, even spraying suspects "with chili oil in sensitive areas," the Guardian notes.
"They handcuffed me and then hung the handcuffs on the windows," says a former detainee who spoke with HRW, per Reuters. "I was hung like a dog." China has notoriously used torture to elicit confessions, and legal reforms (the Criminal Procedure Law was most recently revamped in 2012) mandate that all suspect interviews be taped and ban evidence obtained through torture, Al Jazeera notes; the country's public security minister said in 2013 that coerced confessions plummeted 87% in 2012 from 2011. But HRW tells Al Jazeera it can't confirm that stat and adds that the report may not even cover the worst of it. "We have to take into account that the torture of political criminal suspects often is worse, and the report doesn't cover Tibet and Xinjiang," a human rights researcher tells Reuters. (China promised to stop using organs from executed prisoners last year.)