The Ministry of Civil Affairs has been put in charge of a new regulation repealing a 1982 vagrancy law that granted mainland police the power to arbitrarily detain and incarcerate rural migrants. The 18-article 'Regulation on Managing and Aiding Vagrants and Beggars in Urban Areas' was adopted by the State Council on Friday, Xinhua reported yesterday. The 1982 'Custody and Repatriation of Homeless Beggars' regulation will be abolished on August 1 - the same day the new rule comes into effect. The new regulation mandates local governments at county level and above to set up special shelters for vagrants and beggars and put them under the authority of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. 'Governments at county level and above must take active and timely steps to assist vagrants and beggars,' the new regulation stipulates. It adds: 'The money needed should be guaranteed under the [local governments' annual] budgets. 'The state also encourages social organisations and individuals to provide assistance to the vagrants and beggars.' The 1982 regulation has been widely criticised for giving police the power to send urban vagrants - mostly poor rural labourers seeking work in cities - to badly run and unsanitary centres and to demand payments for their release. The new rule states that police should provide assistance to civil affairs cadres by informing vagrants where to find the shelters and escorting them there when necessary. It explicitly forbids any forms of extortion, abuse and forced labour by the officials running the shelters, who are not allowed to reject or expel vagrants against their wishes. Observers have pointed out that the tragic death of university graduate Sun Zhigang in Guangzhou in March was the catalyst that prompted the central authorities to finally revoke the harsh 1982 regulation. Sun, a graphic designer, was beaten to death when police sent him to a clinic at a detention centre after he initially failed to produce his temporary residence permit. Liu Qing, president of the New York-based Human Rights in China, welcomed the revoking of the regulation but pointed out that there were other 'illegal' regulations that infringed on civil rights on the mainland. He said administrative regulations such as 're-education through labour' also allowed mainland police to send millions of people away without recourse to the legal system.