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Of Asian countries, China, India and Thailand have Info on

the largest numbers of people in confinement. prisons in:
China and India, the two most populous countries
in the world, have the largest prison populations in Cambodia
the region, although India incarcerates only a China
fraction of the number of inmates found in China. Hong Kong
Indeed, its rate of incarceration is among the lowest India
in the world, as is that of Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan
Japan and Nepal. Malaysia
Singapore, followed by Taiwan, has the highest The Philippines
known incarceration rate in the region. (No Singapore
information is available regarding the number of South Korea
prisoners in North Korea, however.) Taiwan

Prison conditions in Burma continued to be a source of concern in 1998.

But in a rare event, the International Committee of the Red Cross was
allowed to hold a February 1998 seminar on health matters for Burma's
prison doctors in Rangoon.

Three well-known detainees were reported to have died in custody

during 1998, their deaths almost certainly exacerbated by prison
conditions or ill-treatment: Aung Kyaw Moe, a student leader, Thein
Tin, an NLD Rangoon division organizer, and Saw Win, an NLD
parliamentarian. U Tin Shwe, sixty-seven, a NLD central committee
member, died on June 8, 1997, after nearly six years in Insein jail. The
official report said he had died of heart disease in Rangoon General
Hospital. During 1997 at least five political prisoners had to receive
emergency medical treatment. Many of the most prominent political
prisoners were transferred to jails far from their families, making visits
difficult and the provision of extra food and medicines almost

The following links provide information on prisons in Burma:

Report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, prepared by

Mr. Yozo Yokota, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on
Human Rights, February 5, 1996 (see sections eight and nine).
Free Burma Coalition, Cries From Insein


The following are links to information relating to Cambodian prisons:

Physicians for Human Rights, "Health Conditions in Cambodia's

Prisons, April 1995


Thousands of political prisoners remained behind bars in 1997 and

1998, and prison conditions continued to be poor with consistent reports
of torture and denial of medical care. In May 1997, labor rights activist
Liu Nianchun, serving a three-year labor reeducation term in Shuanghe
Labor Reform Camp in the far northeast of the country, staged a hunger
strike in protest against the authorities' unlawful extension of his own
prison term and those of two other Beijing dissidents. As punishment for
carrying out the hunger strike, Liu was subsequently subjected to
beatings with electric shock batons, denied water for an extended period,
and placed in solitary confinement. As of September 1997, he was
reported to be suffering from a blocked intestine, swollen lymph nodes
and extensive mouth ulcers but had received no medical treatment.
Similarly, Zhou Guoqiang, whose original three-year jail term was
earlier extended by one year after he made a failed escape attempt, was
said to be receiving no treatment for his prison-contracted tuberculosis.

Wang Guoqi, an independent labor activist serving an eleven-year

sentence in Beijing, was denied all family visits during 1997 on the
grounds that he had "failed to memorize the prison rules."

Dissidents freed from detention after completing their administrative

sentences of labor reeducation in full described punishingly long hours
of work in prison.

In July 1997, the Ministry of Public Security called for teams of

inspectors to be set up at all levels of China's police force to investigate
the endemic problem of torture and ill-treatment in the country's prison
and detention facilities.

At least ten and possibly twelve prisoners reportedly died following two
protests in Drapchi prison in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in May 1998.
The first protest took place on May 1, the second on May 4, on the day
of a visit to the prison by ministers from the E.U. troika countries.
During both, prisoners shouted slogans in support of independence and
the Dalai Lama. In the weeks following the E.U. visit, scores of
prisoners were interrogated, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement.
Some of the prisoners were reported to have died in early June 1998.
Two reportedly were killed by gunfire during one of the protests, while
others were said to have died from beatings. Authorities in Tibet
maintained that many of the deaths were suicides. No independent
investigation had taken place by the end of the year.

Details of retaliation against prisoners involved in a earlier protest

during the visit of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in
October 1997 became known in 1998. Three prisoners who shouted
political slogans reportedly were beaten and held in solitary confinement
for a lengthy period before having their prison terms extended between
three and ten years.

Prison conditions in Tibet, as in China, are said to be poor, frequently

resulting in prisoners ill-health. Some prisoners were also believed to
have died in 1998 as a result of punishment. Yeshe Samten, a monk,
died on May 6, 1998, six days after he was released from Trisam prison,
reportedly as a result of torture he had suffered during his two-year
sentence. The E.U. ministers reported that they were told there were
some 1,800 prisoners in Tibet of whom some 200 were held for state
security crimes. Unofficial figures are much higher.


In March 1997, the outgoing government allowed Human Rights Watch

and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor to conduct the first-ever
international investigation of the territory's prison system. The
investigation was undertaken as a way of establishing benchmarks
against which to measure changes that might take place after the
transition. (Given China's notoriously poor prison conditions and its
frequent use of capital punishment, some of Hong Kong's 12,000
prisoners expressed grave apprehensions regarding their treatment under
Chinese rule.) In light of these concerns, the investigation was also
meant to establish a precedent of independent monitoring of the
territory's prisons, to encourage future monitoring. In general, the
delegation found the prisons to be administered by an extremely
competent and professional staff, the physical infrastructure to be in
good shape, and the prisons themselves to be relatively safe and secure.
On the negative side, the delegation found that many of the prisons were
seriously overcrowded and the controls on contact with the outside
world were unnecessarily stringent.

The following are links to information relating to Hong Kong prisons:

"Post-handover jitters hit Hong Kong prison inmates," Reuter,

June 12, 1997
Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Prison Conditions in Hong Kong in
1997," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, June 1997
Hong Kong Correctional Services Department


A special commission of inquiry, appointed after the 1995 death of a

prominent businessman in India's high-security Tihar Central Jail,
reported in September 1997 that the 10,000 inmates held in that
institution endured serious health hazards, including overcrowding,
"appalling" sanitary facilities, and a shortage of medical staff.

The following articles relate to India's prisons:

"NHRC asks govt. to enact uniform legislation on

prisons," Times of India, May 12, 1997

Other sources of information:

Tihar Prisons (official website)


Prison conditions in Japan continued to be a major issue during 1997.

On August 29, Bahman Daneshian Far, an Iranian prisoner detained in
Fuchu prison, filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government for
discrimination and physical abuse. He claimed that prison officials had
made derogatory remarks about Iranians and when he protested, he was
beaten, kicked repeatedly in the groin, placed in solitary confinement,
and punished by being forced to wear leather handcuffs which the
guards could tighten to cause pain. The lawsuit is only the second
brought by a foreign prisoner in Fuchu.

At its meeting in August 1997 in Geneva, the U.N. Subcommission on

the Prevention of Discrimination decided not to recommend that the
Human Rights Commission take up Japanese prison conditions under a
confidential review procedure. The subcommission did convey concerns
about the issue to the Japanese government, however.

Sketches of prison life by Hiroshi Nonaka, a former inmate of Fuchu

Prison, give a sense of the conditions.

The following are links to information relating to prisons in Japan:

Kevin Heldman, "Brutality by Design,",

December 9, 1999
Amnesty International, "Japan: Abusive Punishments in
Japanese Prisons," June 1998
Amnesty International, Ill-Treatment of Foreigners in Detention
(ASA 22/09/97, November 1997)
"Is prison discipline going too far?" Japan Times, February 1996
Human Rights Watch, Prison Conditions in Japan (1995)
Center for Prisoners' Rights (in Japanese)


The following links provide information on Malaysian prisons:

Jess Maghan, "Penang Prison: A Place in History," CJ

International Online, November-December 1996
Malaysian Department of Prisons (in Malay)


The Pakistan Prisons Act of 1894 and the Prison Rules of Pakistan, both
relics from the colonial era, permit the use of whipping as a punishment
in prisons. They also permit the use of fetters and chains as instruments
of restraint and punishment under certain conditions. The U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Torture, in his 1996 report on Pakistan, described the
fetters used in Pakistan's prisons:

Bar fetters consist of iron rings locked around the

ankles of prisoners; an iron bar is riveted to each
of these iron shackles making an inverted "V".
These two vertical bars are about 50 cm long and
are linked at mid-thigh level by an iron ring
which the prisoner must hold or which is
connected to a rope or chain around the waist.
The rods are of a standard length and, thus, men
who are not of average height may suffer when
the bars are too long or too short for them,
thereby adding to the normal discomfort
experienced in wearing bar fetters. The iron bars
are about 1.2 cm in diameter and weigh, together
with the ankle shackles, around 4 kg. Cross
fetters are iron bars about 50 cm in length
attached in addition to bar fetters and placed
between the iron rings around the ankles keeping
the prisoners' legs permanently apart at the bar's
The following link provides information on prisons in Pakistan:

Report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture on his visit to

Pakistan, October 1996 (the special rapporteur visited the Lahore
Central Jail and the Karachi Central Jail, among other facilities).


In her 1999 report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the

Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
expressed concern about reports that eight prisoners were killed by the
Philippine National Police in connection with prison riots. She noted: "It
is alleged that several of the prisoners were shot dead after they had
been wounded and were lying on the floor."


The following link provides information relating to Singapore's prisons:

Singapore Prisons Department


The following link provides information relating to South Korean


"Solitary: Tough test of survival instinct," BBC News, February

25, 1999


The following links provide information on prisons in Taiwan:

Taiwan Association for Human Rights, "Prison Human Rights,"

Taiwan Human Rights Report 1997
U.S. Department of State, Taiwan Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1996 (see discussion of prison conditions in section


The following link provides information relating to prisons in Thailand:

Thaksina Khaikaew, "Thai prisoners farming for their freedom in

new program," San Diego Source, October 12, 1998
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