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London — A UN body has found torture and ill treatment of prisoners to be widespread in China and Tibet and calls for broad legal reform.

The UN Committee Against Torture's (CAT) "concluding observations" document has been issued following a two-day hearing, which questioned a large number of representatives of the Chinese government.

"The Committee remains seriously concerned over consistent reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, which overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions," the committee said.

The panel of 10 independent experts highlight particular concern over the Chinese government's reluctance to provide information on 24 out of 26 Tibetan cases, each involving allegations of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearances.

Concerns are also raised over allegations of deaths in custody as a result of torture or from lack of medical care, calling for an independent investigation into a number of cases including the death of Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

The Buddhist teacher died in a Chinese prison in July after his health deteriorated as a result of harsh prison conditions. His death sparked international condemnation and protests. He is just one in a long line of Tibetans to die in Chinese prisons.

Written and oral evidence for the committee's investigation was submitted by a number of rights groups, including Free Tibet. The group's director, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren called the conclusion, "vindication of everything we've published relating to torture in Tibet."

"In describing torture as 'deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system' the Committee makes clear their finding that torture is institutional in China and cannot be dismissed as the unauthorised action of over-zealous individuals," she said.

"The Committee opens and closes the document with their concerns about Tibet. The first paragraph of the recommendations notes that China has still not accounted for 'events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties' dating back to the previous review in 2008. The document goes on to criticise a number of failures, noting that many of them are repeat failures, and highlights all of the key issues raised by Free Tibet, Tibet Watch and Gu Chu Sum in our joint reports."

Their report titled Torture in Tibet contained graphic testimonies from torture survivors, which reflected CAT's findings, including records of deaths in custody and details of continued degradation, abuse, and methods of physical and psychological torture.

International human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also reported on detainees being subjected to electric shocks, physical assaults and the use of interrogation chairs, commonly referred to as 'tiger chairs'.

Commenting on the findings, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch said: "China has shown no serious willingness to adopt the independent experts' recommendations to eradicate torture and ill-treatment in detention. In doing so, the Chinese government rejects the core purpose of UN reviews, and deepens the pain of torture survivors."

She added: "These extraordinary recommendations reflect the UN Committee's deep commitment to ending torture and providing support to torture survivors in China. But the question remains: Does Beijing share that commitment?"

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