After Liu Renwang confessed to murdering an official in Shanxi province, a court in northern China sentenced the 53-year-old to death in 2010. But Liu's confession was forced, he says, the result of local police torturing him following his arrest.
In 2013Lüliang Intermediate Court overturned Liu's conviction and he was released after years in jail, The New York Times reported. Now, Liu is bringing a $1 million case against the court for his wrongful imprisonment.
To draw attention to his case and the wider issue of police abuse in the country, Liu commissioned an artist to depict the torture he claims was used to extort his confession.
Grotesque pencil sketches depict Liu in a variety of poses. In one, police force coffee down his nose. In another, blood squirts out of his hands and nails.
One of the pictures shows Liu with his hands shackled to a desk as a policeman drives a small tool into his right hand. Red drops of blood spurt into the air from his fingertip. Liu explained in a caption that police pierced his fingers for about two hours.
Another depicts Liu being dangled from a beam by his hands while a policeman delivers an electric shocks to his midsection. "[I was] hung up for a day and a night and given electrical shocks, one or two hours at a time, causing me to lose consciousness," Liu wrote.
In yet another example of alleged torture, Liu wrote that police engaged in "sticking cotton swabs into my ears and not letting me sleep, damaging my hearing."
Liu's allegations of torture have not been confirmed by any court. A medical examination from January 2009 does show that Liu suffered multiple signs of trauma on various parts of his body, according to a report from The Paper, a state-run outlet in China.
Liu's wounds went beyond the physical, he said. Prison conditions caused him to have suicidal thoughts and left a lasting psychological impact, he told The Paper.
China is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and since 2009 has attempted to reduce wrongful convictions and police abuse. But despite measures to reform the justice system, reports of authorities using torture to extract confessions or information persist.
A Human Rights Watch report from May found that prisoners were sometimes beaten, hung from their wrists or shackled to chairs for prolonged periods of time.
While China has taken some positive steps towards curbing abuse, such as implementing the use of videotaped interrogations, extraordinary police power creates fertile conditions for the abuse of prisoners, the report states.
China has an extremely high conviction rate, which is partly the result of strong public pressure on officials to find a guilty party, according to legal experts who spoke with The Times. Out of all the cases put in front of Chinese courts in 2013, less than one-tenth of 1 percent resulted in an acquittal.
Alexandra Ma contributed to this report.
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