May 18, 2017 / 9:05 AM / a year ago

Chinese police release video of rights activist to refute torture claim

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police released a video on Thursday of detained human rights activist Jiang Tianyong to refute what it described as rumors he had been tortured, though Jiang’s wife said the clip had not assuaged fears for her husband’s safety.

Pro-democracy demonstrators hold up portraits of Chinese disbarred lawyer Jiang Tianyong, demanding his release, during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Disbarred lawyer Jiang, 46, who had spoken out against a government crackdown on dozens of rights activists in 2015, went missing in Changsha city in November last year, his wife told Reuters at the time.

Authorities later confirmed his detention.

His wife, Jin Bianling, who is in the United States, said on Twitter on May 11 that an “unnamed individual within the Changsha system” told her Jiang had been tortured.

“Something has happened to Jiang Tianyong’s leg, he cannot stand on it, the whole leg is swollen,” she said.

Changsha police released a video on their social media account showing Jiang walking up and down a corridor of what appeared to be an apartment building in shorts and sandals.

Jiang’s rights had been fully protected while he was detained, and “doctors had been specially arranged to inspect and treat an old leg wound”, the police said in the post.

They said the video was taken on Wednesday afternoon.

China consistently rejects criticism of its human rights record and says it is a country ruled by law.

Nevertheless, the health and treatment of rights lawyers and activists picked up in waves of detentions have become a focal point for overseas critics of the Chinese government’s actions.

The United Nations human rights office this month denounced the crackdown, citing concern over the coercion and ill-treatment of lawyers.

A person who answered the telephone at the Changsha public security bureau said she was not aware of the case.

Jin told Reuters she was very suspicious of the video, saying it was a set-up shot and that his leg looked discolored and “gray”.

“If they want to prove that he has not been tortured, the should let his lawyers visit and fully examine him,” she said. “As it is, we still don’t even know where he is.”

In March, state media accused Jiang of colluding with the wife of another detained lawyer, Xie Yang, to fabricate accounts of torture in custody in order to grab international headlines.

Xie’s lawyer and wife stood by their claims, accusing the government of a smear campaign.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Robert Birsel

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