Part of complete coverage on
Top Chinese court bans confessions obtained under torture
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
A restraining chair inside Beijing's No.1 Detention Center during a guided media tour on October 25, 2012.
- A Chinese court has banned the use of torture to obtain confessions, say state-run media
- Tactics like hunger, fatigue and extreme temperatures are reportedly prohibited
- Rights groups see the move as an encouraging step but not yet a sign of real reform
(CNN) -- China's top court has banned the use of torture to extract confessions, the latest in a series of reforms to its criminal justice system.
According to state-run news agency Xinhua, a document released by China's Supreme People's Court on Thursday stated that evidence and testimony obtained through torture and illegal methods such as forcing the accused to suffer extreme temperatures, hunger and fatigue -- must be ruled out by judges.
Xinhua said that torture has been a practice of "widespread concern" and was used by some Chinese law enforcement personnel to wrap up cases quickly through forced testimony or a confession.
"Evidence must be valued," Xinhua quoted the document as saying.
Is China ending labor prison camps?
China to relax one child policy
Did Communist Party torture man to death?
"The traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence."
The court document came after China announced a series reforms following a four-day closed-door meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Last week, China said it plans to abolish the "re-education through labor" system under which tens of thousands are imprisoned in China without trial.
The reform plan also promised to reduce the number of crimes that carry death sentences.
Capital punishment should be handed down by seasoned judges and must be ruled out if evidence is not sufficient, the court document said.
Human rights groups cautioned that the announcement by the Supreme People's Court, while an encouraging step, should not pass as real reform yet. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said that the document demonstrated that there were people inside the system pushing for progress, and that alone was significant.
He said in a statement posted on the organization's website, that this was the latest step China had taken in recent years to try to address the "most glaring" defects of China's criminal law system and one paper document was not likely to bring about major changes.
"For one, it only speaks to the courts, while it's the police, a much more powerful institution than China's weak courts, that does the torturing," he said.
Investigators in China drowning case jailed
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2014 GMT (0414 HKT)
Despite China's inexorable economic rise, the U.S. is still an indispensable ally, especially in Asia. No one knows this more than the Asian giant's leaders, writes Kerry Brown.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
The new U.S. deal with China on greenhouse gases faces enormous challenges in both countries. Jonathan Mann explains.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
For the United States and China to announce a plan reducing carbon emissions by almost a third by the year 2030 is a watershed moment for climate politics on so many fronts.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
China shows off its new stealth fighter jet, but did it steal the design from an American company? Brian Todd reports.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
Airshow China in Zhuhai provides a rare glimpse of China's military and commercial aviation hardware.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A new exchange initiative aims to bridge relations between the two countries .
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0551 GMT (1351 HKT)
Xi and Abe's brief summit featured all the enthusiasm of two unhappy schoolboys forced to make up after a schoolyard dust-up.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
Maybe you've decided to show your partner love with a new iPhone. But how about 99 of them?
November 3, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Can China's Muslim minority fit in? One school is at the heart of an ambitious experiment to assimilate China's Uyghurs.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is one of thousands of Americans learning Chinese.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 0500 GMT (1300 HKT)
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he needs to maintain good economic ties with China while trying to keep Beijing's push for reunification at bay.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
Chinese drone-maker DJI wants to make aerial photography drones mainstream despite concerns about privacy.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 0518 GMT (1318 HKT)
A top retired general confesses to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in war on corruption.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
China sends an unmanned spacecraft to the moon and back but is country following an outdated recipe for superpower status?
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Full marks for ingenuity: Students employ high-tech gadgets worthy of a spy movie to pass national exam.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0526 GMT (1326 HKT)
Confucius Institutes seek to promote Chinese language and culture but some have accused them of "cultural imperialism."
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.