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<-Back to WTN Archives Finland prison chief impressed by China jails (Reuter)
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World Tibet Network News

Thursday, May 15, 1997



2. Finland prison chief impressed by China jails (Reuter)


BEIJING, May 15 (Reuter) - China is making progress in developing spacious
and modern model prisons aimed at improving standards across the country's
huge penal system, Finland's prison chief said on Thursday.

China's efforts to build better jails and boost training of its army of
300,000 prison staff showed a genuine desire to reform the much-criticised
prison network, said Finnish Prison Administration Director General K.J.
Lang.

"What surprised me most (was) the large message of improvement," Lang said
in an interview at the end of a 10-day visit to Beijing and the remote
Himalayan region of Tibet.

International human rights groups have frequently criticised Chinese
prisons for the widespread torture and abuse of inmates and for denying
basic medical care to high-profile dissidents.

While the prisons visited had been surprisingly advanced, it was impossible
to judge from them the conditions accorded to all of China's 1.35 million
convict population, Lang said.

"You cannot after a visit like this... say what is the situation in all
China," he said. "There must be a lot of differences."

Punishment had been cruel throughout China's long history, but real efforts
were being made to improve conditions at the Beijing municipal prison and
Lhasa's central jail, Lang said.

The Beijing prison had been nominated as one of China's five "model
prisons," he said.

"What was most impressive in both places... was the amount of space
reserved for living, for work and production, for education," he said.

The Lhasa prison, home to about half of Tibet's prison population and many
of the restive region's jailed pro-independence activists, had been totally
rebuilt and was now more impressive than many European jails, he said.

The Finnish officials, whose visit was part of 10 years of exchanges with
Chinese counterparts, were allowed to speak with one inmate jailed on
counter-revolutionary charges, who appeared to live under the same
conditions as other prisoners, he said.

Apart from the standard penal system investigated by Lang and his
colleagues, China maintains a huge labour camp network where common and
political offenders routinely suffer administrative detention for up to
three years without trial.

Police detention centres are also extensive and have been criticised by
human rights groups and Chinese officials alike for cases of reported
torture of suspects.

Beijing's efforts to improve the prison system included the expansion of
its main prison staff training centre to cater for 4,000 students from the
current 2,500, Lang said.

Beijing Justice Minister Xiao Yang in February dismissed foreign criticism
of China's jails, saying they aimed to combine punishment with reform and
to mix labour with education.

Only six to eight percent of convicts returned to crime after their
release, Xiao was quoted by state media as saying.


Articles in this Issue:
  1. Scorsese raps China for Cannes directors' ban (Reuter)
  2. Finland prison chief impressed by China jails (Reuter)
  3. France's Chirac urged to raise rights in China (Reuter)
  4. Voice of Tibets 1st Anniversary (VOT)
  5. A visit to the Argentine set of 'Seven Years in Tibet



Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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