Geneva -- China defended its rights record Friday, telling a U.N. human rights panel it banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement "according to law" and rejecting allegations that Chinese prisoners are tortured.
Responding to questions from the U.N. Committee Against Torture, Chinese officials also defended "re-education through labor," saying the practice "has redeemed many people and prevented them from sliding further down the road to crimes."
The U.N. panel is reviewing China's periodic report on its compliance with a 1984 convention against torture. The panel is to issue its conclusions Tuesday.
Human rights groups in China have said beatings, forced labor, bad food and poor medical care are common in Chinese prisons. While top Chinese officials have expressed opposition to the use of torture, such policies are often not enforced at the local level, the groups say.
The government has allowed the media to report some torture cases, though officials withhold information about cases involving political prisoners and people linked to the Falun Gong movement.
China banned Falun Gong last July, rounding up its leaders and warning adherents to renounce the movement or risk punishment. It says the group is politically motivated and caused the deaths of hundreds of people who avoided medical care due to their beliefs.
"As a responsible government, the Chinese government cannot and should not sit idly and tolerate the cult Falun Gong endangering society and bringing harm to our people," Chinese Ambassador Qiao Zonghuai said.
China "banned it according to law," Qiao said. "As for the handful of Falun Gong plotters, organizers and core members who engaged in illegal activities ... the judicial organs in China have cracked down on them according to law."
He also denied that prisoners were tortured in China.
The Chinese delegation insisted all prisoners in China enjoy equal treatment, adding "the allegation that the Chinese government applies torture in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities is scandalous."
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