Draft secret-detention law posted for comment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am


Draft amendments to the mainland's Criminal Procedure Law were finally made public yesterday, after leaked excerpts had earlier sparked heated debate.

The draft amendments, which were tabled for a first reading by the National People's Congress Standing Committee last week, have now been posted for public comment on the NPC's website. Until yesterday the draft had only been seen by a handful of law professors and state media.

One of the most controversial amendments would place new rules on the existing practice of 'residential surveillance' that many human rights activists contend would allow police to detain suspects accused of endangering state security - usually dissidents - in secret locations for up to six months with little restriction.

Current law allows residential surveillance for up to six months, but subjects are usually watched at their residence unless they lack any fixed address. In that case, they can be held at a 'specified residence', not detailed in the law.

The draft released yesterday specifies three circumstances in which individuals could be held in a specified residence: when they are suspected of terrorism, endangering state security, or if keeping them in their usual residences would 'interfere with investigations'.

The draft says police must in most cases inform family members within 24 hours of residential surveillance outside the home; excepted are cases in which the subject of surveillance is suspected of terrorism or endangering state security or if keeping them at home would hamper investigations.

Rights activists said the amendments would effectively legitimise the detention and disappearances of dissidents such as artist Ai Weiwei - who was held for nearly three months this year before being granted conditional bail - and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo - who was subsequently convicted of inciting subversion of state power and jailed for 11 years.

The official Xinhua news agency dismissed such allegations yesterday, quoting experts as arguing that individuals under residential surveillance would still be able to seek approval to go to work or school.


The number of days artist and dissident Ai Weiwei was held at an undisclosed location for tax evasion before his release in June