China shows off prison - and rights record

A paramilitary guard stands before the bars of a main gate to the No.1 Detention Center during a government guided tour in Beijing on October 25, 2012.

BEIJING - China gave foreign journalists rare access to a prison on Thursday in an attempt to show progress in improving human rights ahead of the country's leadership change.

Rows of police officers greeted busloads of reporters on the eastern outskirts of Beijing before a limited and carefully controlled tour of the 1,000-person capacity No. 1 Detention Centre and its 200-bed hospital.

It is "very good to improve the transparency of our work so that the international community can see more clearly the actual situation here in China of public security supervision and law enforcement", said Zhao Chunguang, the director of detention supervision, in a welcome address.

Outside, the centre for pre-trial prisoners and convicts serving short sentences looked menacing with concrete walls, barbed wire and watchtowers. Inside it was spick-and-span and as brightly painted as a kindergarten.

No inmates were visible on the tour of the hospital or in the brightly painted cells, which included four beds and a bathroom separated by frosted glass, as well as an outdoor area for detainees to exercise.

"It is a very good activity to invite foreign media friends to visit and interview in the public security supervision centres," added Zhao.

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