Public calls for return of vagrancy law attacked

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am

Mainland legal experts and activist lawyers yesterday criticised recent public calls headed by Sars hero Zhong Nanshan for the reintroduction of a national repatriation system.

The system's abolition in 2003 after the death in custody of college student Sun Zhigang was widely lauded as a triumph for civil liberties. But after his laptop computer was stolen, Dr Zhong was quoted as saying he supported the detention and relocation of vagrants as a way of reducing crime.

'Robbers and thieves are one step away from urban vagrants ... although there are people detained who were not supposed to be detained, I have a different opinion about annulling the whole system,' the Southern Weekend quoted Dr Zhong as saying.

Li Xuan , vice-dean of the Central University of Finance and Economics' law school, said the resumption was suggested by Dr Zhong 'based on the personal harm he had suffered and emotional factors; lacking in deep thought'. Professor Li was speaking at a seminar held by the new Peking University Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights yesterday.

'It is irresponsible to blame the worsening social security situation on the [abolition of the] custody and relocation system. And it is hazardous to abuse the force of the legal framework to curb criminal violence. It means brushing aside human rights,' Professor Li said.

Peking University law school professor Zhang Qianfan said: 'The Sun Zhigang incident advanced China's human rights movement ... protecting the rights of all citizens, including those of Dr Zhong Nanshan.'

He Weifang , also from Peking University law school, said the legislation enacting the repatriation system was 'an evil law ... because it limited the rights of free migration of the public'. Professor He was one of five legal experts who petitioned for the system's repeal.

A survey conducted by in June showed that 61 per cent of the more than 10,000 online respondents agreed with Dr Zhong that rising numbers of jobless migrants would increase risks to public safety.