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Chinese police officers given exemption from prosecution

  • From February, officers will no longer be held legally responsible for damage to the property of individuals or organisations caused in the performance of their duty
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 10:43pm

Chinese police officers will soon be exempt from legal responsibility for any damage they might cause to the property or interests of individuals or organisations while in the course of their duty.

Announcing the new regulations at a press conference on Saturday, Guo Lin, a spokeswoman for the public security ministry said they were necessary to enable officers to do their work without fear of retribution.

In the event of an officer damaging the legitimate rights or interests of a citizen or institution, the injured party would, however, still be entitled to compensation from the relevant public security authority, she said.

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The new rules, approved by Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi and which take effect on February 1, are also intended to help protect officers’ own property and their families.

They state that public security authorities should seek to ensure the safety of police officers in all situations, including when dealing with violent situations or the threat of physical or emotional attacks on themselves or their relatives.

Guo said that many frontline police officers had encountered “obstacles” during their law enforcement duties, such as violent resistance or people spreading rumours about them.

Such problems were interfering with the officers’ job of fighting crime and protecting the public, she said.

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Violent clashes between the public and the police are not uncommon in mainland China. According to figures from the ministry’s website, more than 13,000 police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the past 40 years, including more than 2,000 between 2013 and 2017.

On October 27, a police officer in the east China province of Zhejiang was killed after being knocked down by a car while he was investigating a crime.

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Si Weijiang, a Shanghai-based lawyer, said police officers were increasingly at risk because of the worsening public security situation in the country.

Their role in trying to uphold “social harmony” was putting them on the front line of conflicts between the public and state or other organisations.

“People’s grievances are growing and that is making more work for the police,” he said. “So when they [police officers] perform tasks that are not welcomed by the public, people get frustrated and complain.”

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However, that situation was only likely to get worse when the new rules exempting officers from legal responsibility came into force, Si said.

“It will be necessary for public security organs to exercise much greater restraint,” he said. “If they do not, the conflict between the police and the people will be intensified, and the job of the police officers will become harder.”