Activists object to secret detention bill

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am


Mainland human rights lawyers and activists are voicing their concern about a proposed law that would legalise secret detentions.

They fear that if passed, it would lead to more severe persecution of government critics. Many who have been secretly detained by police themselves expressed their objection by writing to the National People's Congress (NPC) before the end of the consultation period late last week.

The proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Law would make it legal for the authorities to detain suspects accused of endangering state security without charge for up to six months, without informing their families. Several outspoken human rights lawyers, including Tang Jingling, who was detained for nearly six months during Beijing's mass crackdown on dissent this year, fear the proposed law might be just the start of a harsher crackdown on rights activists.

'If this law is passed, it will be more widely applied to other less high-profile rights defenders and this will be the start of a larger-scale abuse,' Tang said. Human rights lawyers Peng Jian and Liu Xiaoyuan also made submissions to the NPC, demanding that changes be made to the proposed law to protect the rights of suspects and their families, and for more stringent approval procedures to prevent potential abuses.

Rights activist Hu Jia, who was freed from jail three months ago, said the law would bolster the power of police and state security agents, spread fear among government critics and further hamper free speech.

'The law will be like the sword of Damocles hanging over everyone's head,' Hu said. Aids activist Wan Yanhai, who fled the mainland last year citing incessant government harassment, said Beijing would risk further alienating its people. He wrote to the NPC, demanding the security agencies use their experience to assess the use of arbitrary detentions in their bid for social stability.