GENEVA — A UN panel investigating torture allegations criticised China on Monday for its secrecy and lack of transparency on the issue.

Felice Gaer, the UN Committee Against Torture’s rapporteur on China, said she was frustrated at a lack of information, details or statistics on individual cases of rights abuses.

She said she was “concerned not so much about an absence of statistics, but an unwillingness to make these statistics public,” noting Beijing’s frequent use of the State Secrets Act to withold information.

China’s ambassador Li Baodong said there was “zero tolerance” for torture in the country, but stressed his was a “developing” nation that needed time to implement human rights standards.

At a similar hearing last week, Gaer quizzed China on the number of people sentenced to death, the fate of North Korean emigrants and the harassment of pregnant women to “persuade” them to have an abortion.

Gaer said she was “perplexed” by China’s response, which consisted of highlighting the relevant laws in place to combat abuses, while the committee “expects information on concrete measures to make sure these (laws) are being implemented.”

“The lack of information makes it difficult to do a serious and independent assessment of the allegations by rights groups about torture and ill treatment,” she added.

The UN’s Committee Against Torture will make its final recommendations known in a report on November 21.

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