Tiger Chair: Tool For Torture

Washington, D.C.—Torture methods use various apparatuses from simple rope to complex contraptions. The tiger chair is used to extract information or “crack” the detainee even if that means breaking his or her bones.

Police Power and Control

Efforts to curb torture in China are always on the table, but talks between the United States or International community and China lack significant results. Part of the problem is due to the broad power the police exert. In 2009, China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) instituted three measures: 1. Surveillance cameras in detainee living quarters, 2. Alarms for detainees to report abuses to guards, 3. Physical barriers in interrogation rooms separating police officers and suspects[1].  The UN Committee against Torture acknowledged the “fundamental legal safeguards to prevent torture and ill treatment during detention as well as ensure a fair legal proceeding[2],” was access to a lawyer. However, a Washington Post article reported, an estimated 70 to 90 percent of criminal defendants in China have no right to a lawyer[3]. As a result, detainees are often immobilized with restraints and interrogated by police officers.

Tiger Chair

The tiger chair, also known as a tiger bench, is a five-foot long board with a vertical backrest on one end. The tortured detainee sits lengthwise with his or her legs stretching down the board. His or her arms are restricted behind the backrest. The mouth may or may not be gaged, but often times left unobstructed to allow for shouts and screams that can frighten other prisoners. Initially, ropes are tied tightly around the legs, above and below the knee. This procedure has been reported to cause extreme discomfort as the ropes cut into the skin.

Next, bricks are placed underneath the calves elevating the legs. Not only are the bricks uncomfortable, but also the knees start to stress from hypertension—unnatural backward bending of the knee. At the same time, the tension in the rope increases as the bricks are added digging into the victim’s skin and muscle tissue.

The more the victim resists, the greater the chance for bricks to be added, increasing the legs elevation and tension in the ropes. The torture progresses until the ropes break.  It has been documented; prisoners have gone to a literal breaking point with bone fractures.

Additionally, metal poles or wooden rods with weights on the end will be placed over the victim’s legs increasing the severity in pain.

Finally, as the victim is tied, he or she is unable to defend against punches, kicks, electrical prods, and so on. One detainee said, “I sat until my buttocks bled[4].”  The victim can be left in the same position for hours, even days in discomfort.

Tiger chair

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Standards

The People’s Republic of China has been a member of the United Nations since October 24, 1945. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment[5].“ As China increases its presence in the international community with a stouter, more influential voice; it is no longer acceptable to use other nation’s violations of Article 5 as a means of justification. Each state must be a moral model example not only because the rules according to international treaties say to, but also because it is ethical.


To learn more about torture and the laogai system, please contact

Laogai Research Foundation

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Washington, D.C. 20001

Office: (202) 408-8300



[1] Human Rights Watch. “Tiger Chairs and Cell Bosses,” Last modified May 13, 2015. https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/05/13/tiger-chairs-and-cell-bosses/polic…

[2]Committee Against Torture, “Observations of the Committee against Torture on the revision of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR),”  Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, December 16, 2013, accessed July 22, 2016, page 11, section G, paragraph 48.

[3] Maya Wang, “China Must be Pressed to End Torture by Police,” Washington Post, August 21, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/china-must-be-pressed-to-end-tor…

[4] Emma Reynolds, “Tiger Chair: Sick Torture Tactics in Chinese Prisons,” News.com.au, May 17, 2015, accessed July 22, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/tiger-chair-sick-torture-tactics-in-ch…

[5] United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” accessed July 22, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html


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