Pressure builds for vote against secret detentions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am


Certain legal amendments to be voted on at the National People's Congress are causing concern because they could legalise secret detentions.

A growing number of legal professionals and microbloggers on the mainland are calling on NPC delegates either to strike out those clauses in the final draft of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) or to vote against the draft as a whole on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organisation, is also calling on delegates to strike out these clauses, which it says, in a press release today, contradict China's international obligations.

Under the draft's provisions, in cases concerning state security and terrorism, police could detain a suspect without notifying the person's family if the officers think doing so might impede their investigation.

And in such cases, or those involving major corruption, police could put a suspect under residential surveillance for up to six months in a location, chosen by police, other than the suspect's home.

The final draft, released on Thursday, already restricts circumstances in which police are not required to notify families, authorities say.

Lang Sheng , a senior official on the NPC standing committee, told reporters the cases in which families would not be notified of a detention would be 'very rare' and that such secret detentions normally last just 'three to seven days'.

However, under the draft's provisions, a person suspected of a serious crime could theoretically be detained for 37 days without his or her family's knowledge. And for those put under residential surveillance in a location selected by police, even though families must now be notified within 24 hours, police are not required to give a reason or the location.

'If a family is waiting for someone to come home, and he doesn't show up ... even 12 hours late would be too long,' lawyer and NPC delegate Chi Susheng said. 'Has he been kidnapped? Has he been involved in a car accident? This is too much for a family to bear.'

Rights advocates are worried about potential abuses. 'Subverting state security', they say, is a criminal charge often abused by authorities to threaten and punish dissidents.

Under the draft's provisions, citizens suspected of terrorism and state security violations are deprived of further protections like automatic access to a lawyer, as lawyers must obtain the approval of the investigators before meeting their clients.