China: Legislature Outlines Police Powers, Curbs Local Security Powers

By Matthew Harwood

China's highest legislative body yesterday approved a law that outlines rules governing the country's domestic police force.

The law, which has not been released publicly, formally spells out when and how the People's Armed Police can be deployed, reports The New York Times.

The law is the first to explicitly govern the force, whose members serve as border guards, security guards for government officials, firefighters and relief workers during disasters but who are best known outside China for their role in suppressing political and social unrest.

The troops will have authority in “handling rebellion, riots, large-scale serious criminal violence, terror attacks and other social safety incidents,” according to a summary of the law published by the state-run Xinhua news agency before the measure was approved.

The law, reports Agence France Press (AFP), comes after recent riots "in Urumqi, capital of the western Xinjiang region, in which members of the mainly Muslim Uighur minority clashed with Han Chinese." Nearly 200 people died in what AFP calls the worst ethnic unrest to gash China in decades. In the aftermath, the PAP was criticized as slow in response to the bloody ethnic fighting.

The measure also denies local officials the power to call in the PAP to quell unrest. The central government's move comes after repeated allegations by ordinary citizens that corrupt local officials use the PAP to terrorize the people under their governance, reports Bloomberg News.

The new law governing the deployment of the force, approved in Beijing by the National People's Congress, comes as the number of protests and riots by farmers, workers and ethnic minorities is on the rise. Police should refuse orders that they consider unlawful, the law states.

♦ Photo of People's Armed Police by eNil/Flickr


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