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Virtual Brutality

Prisoners passing their time playing video games frankly sounds a little bit like a luxury that would ordinarily be denied behind bars, but this has been happening in China,where prisoners are being forced to play online games, as part of a credit system, which prison guards can trade on as fictional currencies to make money.It is apparently so lucrative that inmates have worked 12-hour shifts, to make the most that they can, whilst still being forced to do back-breaking physical labour throughout the day. They are subjected to harsh punishments for not completing gaming quotas. This enforced virtual labour is one of the many punishment smeted out by the Chinese authorities to those in prison. For example the Re-education Through Labour (RTL) programme that has been used since the mid-1950s in China as a form of punitive administrative detention, imposed without charge, trial or judicial review.

The issue of freedom of expression in China and the internet is complex and the big providers Google have, in the past, been criticised for their role in internet blocking and surveillance. This week it also emerged that Cisco Systems worked with the Chinese government to produce software that allowed authorities to track followers of the Falun Gong movement, which is outlawed in China and whose members have faced persecution and imprisonment. A complaint has been filed by the US-based Human Rights Law Foundation which has represented Falun Gong followers in other legal matters.

Finally, in other news on China,its been reported that new measures have been introduced to reduce the number of criminals it executes. The Supreme Peoples Court has ruled to suspend more sentences for two years, and it is thought that some of these will be commuted to life imprisonment. The news follows a move earlier this year to reduce the number of crimes that carry the death penalty by 13 to 55. China still executes more people than any other country in the world with the overall number kept a state secret. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all forms and has called on China to abolish the practice and fall into line with international law and standards and ahead of this to be open and transparent regarding its use of capital punishment.

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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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