Made in China: the world's 'tools of torture' factory

How much of what you own is ‘Made in China’?

It’s a difficult question to answer, not helped by the fact that the relationship between manufacturer and consumer is rarely a direct one. But starting with my own desk, the phone, fan and computer screen are all made there. It’s interesting that we the consumers are unlikely to be able to name many Chinese brands, despite the fact that some claims suggest up to 50% of goods owned in the US could be made there.

If you were a torturer though, that question might be easier to answer.

Which? Guides are unlikely to venture into the torture trade, but if they did, the chances are that ‘neck-combination cuff’ you’ve had your eye on was probably Made in China too.

Research conducted by Amnesty and the Omega Research Foundation released today reveals that the torture goods industry has more than quadrupled in the last decade with more than 130 Chinese companies involved in the production and trade of law enforcement equipment – compared to only 28 Chinese companies ten years ago. 

The almost complete failure to regulate the trade in these goods means that China is making some things which have no other purpose other than for use in the torture chamber. Even legit equipment, though, is shipped off to countries with appalling human rights records without any due regard for checks, meaning that too could be used to abuse.

Made in China it might be, but in an appallingly grim twist, it might also be ‘Sold in Britain’. The UK is a serial offender in allowing banned torture equipment to be advertised in one particular London arms fair – the London Dockland’s Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) fair  - with Chinese company Tianjin Myway International ejected from last year’s exhibition for advertising electric-shock stun guns in its company brochure.  It was the third successive London DSEi exhibition where banned equipment was on sale.

In fact the UK government has never prosecuted a single company for illegally peddling torture equipment at UK arms fairs, despite numerous repeat offences dating back over a decade.

Ahead of next year’s fair there should surely be an assurance that this is the end of the UK playing the dirty role of matchmaker between trader and torture. The following equipment has no place in the marketplace...

Spiked batons

Spiked batons have metal spikes along the entire length of the baton or are plastic batons with a spiked metal head. These are specifically designed as implements of torture.

China is the only country known to manufacture spiked batons – with seven Chinese companies openly advertising these inhumane sticks for export. Chinese-manufactured spiked batons have reportedly been used by police in Cambodia and exported to security forces in Nepal and Thailand.

Electric stun batons

These devices make it easy for security officials to apply extremely painful multiple shocks by hand to sensitive areas of the body including the genitals, throat, groin or ears.

Twenty-nine Chinese companies involved in the export trade were advertising electric stun batons. Amnesty and Omega found evidence of what appear to be Chinese-manufactured electric-shock batons being carried by police in Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Madagascar.

Weighted leg cuffs, rigid restraint chairs, neck-combination cuffs

Scores of Chinese companies manufacture and sell abusive restraint devices including heavy-weighted leg cuffs and rigid restraint chairs; one company manufactures neck-combination cuffs.

The neck devices can endanger an individual’s life by restricting breathing, blood circulation and nerve communication between the body and the brain.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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