Chinese chief engineer ‘tortured to death by six Communist Party investigators who dunked his head underwater trying to extract confession’

  • Yu Qiyi held in detention for 38  days on suspicion  of corruption in a land deal
  • Coroner said he had inhaled fluids that  caused his lungs to malfunction
  • ‘Shuanggui’ interrogations  try to force  officials to confess wrongdoings

By  Richard Shears and Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 11:25 EST, 4  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:34 EST, 4 September 2013

Chinese chief engineer Yu Qiyi was tortured to death by Communist Party officials 

Chinese chief engineer Yu Qiyi was tortured to death by  Communist Party officials


The chief engineer of a state-owned Chinese  company was tortured to death by Communist Party officials who repeatedly dunked  his head into a tub of icy water, in an attempt to extract a confession for  corruption, it has been claimed.

Mr Yu Qiyi, who was in his early 40s, had his  head held underwater by six  investigators after being  been  held for 38 days in detention  in the city of Wenzhou.

A coroner’s report concluded  that Mr Yu had  died after inhaling fluids that caused his lungs to  malfunction – an official  way of saying he drowned.

The state-run Beijing Times newspaper,  published photographs of several bruises on the body of Mr Yu Qiyi, and claimed he had been tortured  during a severe  interrogation process know as shuanggui in which  officials are asked to confess  wrongdoings.

The investigators will now be tried for  intentional assault.

A Communist Party member of the Wenzhou  Industry Investment Group, Mr  Qiyi was said by his wife, Wu Qian, to have been  ‘a strong man before  the shuanggui process, but he was thin by the time he  died.’

Yu’s family says the injuries are proof that  he was beaten, starved and  otherwise tortured by investigators in the eastern  city of Wenzhou where he lived.

‘He was thin  like a beggar,’ said Wu Qian,  describing seeing Yu on April 9 in a local hospital. ‘He was lying there so  pitifully. … Anywhere that we could see, there were injuries on  his  body.’

Under shuanggui  interrogations, suspects are  whisked away into a shadowy detention. It operates beyond  the law, with people  held for weeks and months at a time with no regard  for the normal, if often  ignored, legal protections Chinese citizens are supposed to be entitled  to.


Mr Yu Qiyi was picked up on suspicion of corruption in a land deal in the city of eastern Chinese city Wenzhou where he lived and worked  

Mr Yu Qiyi was picked up on suspicion of corruption in a  land deal in the city of eastern Chinese city Wenzhou where he lived and worked


Defenders of the system say party  investigators need unchecked power to prevent officials suspected of malfeasance  from using their influence to block such inquiries.

By keeping them in solitary confinement, the  argument goes, officials are unable contact others who might be implicated or  police or judges they might have influence over.

And it has been used against powerful  officials, most recently Bo Xilai, a high-ranking politician brought down in  spectacular style last year following his wife’s involvement in the murder of a  British businessman.

The former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, who  now faces charges of taking bribes and abusing his power, also was under the  party’s investigative detention system.

Yu was wanted for questioning for possible  corruption in a land deal when he was picked up by investigators.

Run by the party’s Discipline Inspection  Commission, the investigations have time limits of up to six months and usually  take place in hotels or guesthouses, according to a 2010 book on arbitrary  detention in China by legal scholar Flora Sapio.

High-ranking Chinese politician Bo Xilai was also subjected to the shuanggui torture process 

High-ranking Chinese politician Bo Xilai was also  subjected to the shuanggui torture process


Detainees are guarded even when they use the  toilet, Sapio writes, and are subject to sleep deprivation and  beatings.

Because the targets and interrogators are  party members and are bound by the party’s disciplinary code, the process is  girded in silence, its details mostly kept out of public view.

When the probe is concluded, investigators  sometimes turn the suspect along with selected evidence to prosecutors for what  is often a perfunctory prosecution with guilt a foregone  conclusion.

No figures are made public on the number of  people put through the party’s detention system annually. Shen said the number  of corruption cases the party investigates — about 150,000 cases last year —  provides some indication, though the detentions are likely to be far higher  since each case usually involves multiple suspects.

The attention that Yu’s case has brought  comes at an inconvenient time for the party. There is growing pressure from  legal reformers and the public to do away with another form of punishment with  flimsy legal underpinnings: a system that allows police to jail people in labor  camps for up to four years without a court trial or judicial  review.

Because recently installed President Xi  Jinping came to power pledging to root out widespread corruption, the shuanggui  detentions may be used even more frequently, not less — setting back legal  reforms.

‘The use of shuanggui delivers not justice,  but selective and vindictive prosecutions often based on torture, and will do  little to straighten out China’s rotten officialdom,’ Human Rights Watch  researcher Maya Wang said.

Before he died, Yu, a party member since  1998, had been a rising figure in the Wenzhou Industry Investment Group, a  state-owned company that according to its website invests in energy and other  industries and manages 4.6 billion yuan ($750 million) in assets. Yu had been  appointed by provincial leaders for a temporary assignment at the Cabinet agency  in Beijing that oversees China’s biggest state-owned companies.

He was arriving back from the capital on  March 1 but instead of being picked up as usual by his ex-wife, Wu, who was  waiting in the car outside, he made a hurried phone call before being whisked  away by investigators. It was the last time she heard his voice.

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