Chinese Regime Considers Legalizing Illegal Detentions
concern group, call for the release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (seen on
poster) as they protest in Hong Kong on June 17, 2009. Gao has suffered repeated
abductions by security forces and his whereabouts are unknown. (Mike
For years the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been abducting troublesome
lawyers, dissidents, and activists, and
detaining them in secret locations without
notifying a soul. It is an extralegal process, decried by international observers and carried out
secretly inside China. A new change to the criminal law might make the process legal.
proposed amendments to residential surveillance laws would permit police to hold
suspects in undisclosed locations for up to six months in cases involving
terrorism, major corruption, or “national security.” The latter term is often
interpreted in unconventional ways by Chinese security forces, and can include
holding and expressing political or religious beliefs that the Party deems
Suspects could be held without notifying their families or lawyers to better “facilitate the
investigation," the state-owned Legal Daily reported.
As it is, Beijing
has become accustomed to secretly holding dissidents in an apparent attempt to
silence them. Prominent Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who was jailed
for nearly three months, was the highest profile example. He vanished before any
official charges had been concocted and filed.
Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was convicted in December 2006
of subversion, with the sentence reduced to 5 years probation. Since then he has
been subjected to repeated abductions by state security, with the most recent
occurring in April 2010. He has twice discussed the torture that he was
subjected to while detained, once in an article in 2007 and in April
2010 with an AP reporter. On Aug. 14, the date his 5-yearlong period of
probation ended, his wife held a press conference calling for the return of Gao
to his family. His whereabouts remain unknown.
While the regime claims
that the amendments are part of positive legal reforms, rights groups fear that
authorities will be endorsing an illegal practice already in use by police,
Radio Free Asia reported.
Currently, Chinese laws already allow suspects
to be held under house arrest, but the proposed changes would allow them to be
moved tolocations other than a “regular detention center or police station."
Liu Xiaoyuan, a legal activist and Ai’s lawyer, wrote a microblog post
on Saturday saying that even if the changes were to be made, at least family
members should be notified.
“Otherwise, a provision like this is basically
legalizing forced disappearances," Liu said, adding that any law lacking
requirements for families to be notified could result in torture and
The proposed changes to the criminal procedure law will be
reviewed in March by the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the
highest state body and only legislative house in communist China. The result of
that review, however, may have been decided by Party officials ahead of time.