A controversial regulation giving police extensive powers to detain and repatriate people found without urban residency permits in cities is to be revoked. Premier Wen Jiabao made the decision at a meeting of the State Council in Beijing, Xinhua said last night. It was agreed that conditions in the nation's migrant labour market had changed and the regulation was no longer warranted. The regulation, which was passed in 1982, covers the provision of shelter for vagrants and beggars in urban areas - and their repatriation. It has been the target of public complaints after cases emerged of police brutality and extortion. A new regulation to replace it would be made public 'after further revision', Xinhua said. The decision followed the death in custody of 27-year-old Sun Zhigang in Guangzhou last March. Sun, a university graduate from Wuhan, was detained by police in Guangzhou after he failed to produce his temporary residence permits. He was sent to a detention centre and died three days later, after having been beaten. Early this month, Guangzhou courts sentenced a detention centre nurse and one of her patients to death, and 16 others were given prison sentences, for Sun's death. The 1982 regulation has been criticised widely by human rights activists who charged that it violated its original purpose of providing assistance to the homeless. Liu Qing, president of the New York-based Human Rights in China, yesterday called the State Council's decision a 'step in the right direction.' But he cautioned against premature celebrations. 'Sun Zhigang's death triggered this decision,' Mr Liu said. 'But we must watch carefully the regulation that will replace it. 'It's important that the Ministry of Public Security is not put in charge [of drafting the regulation],' he said. 'The sheltering and repatriation of vagrants and beggars should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. 'Moreover, this should be a welfare measure [for the homeless] and not a means for profits. And more important, it should be a voluntary measure - the persons involved should have the right to decide whether they want to be sheltered or repatriated.'