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China plans to legalise secret detentions

Reuters/David Gray

China is proposing an amendment to its criminal law that human rights activists say would legalise the forced disappearance of dissidents. Dozens of lawyers and activists have gone missing in recent months as China cracks down on dissent.


The proposed changes to China’s “residential surveillance” - or house arrest - laws would allow police to hold suspects in secret locations in cases involving terrorism, national security and corruption, according to China’s Legal Daily newspaper.

The report said that police would need permission from a prosecutor or public security agency in order to detain a suspect in a “specified location” in cases where holding him at home could “obstruct the investigation.”

The law would not require police to contact family members of the suspect if it was seen to hinder the case.

Human Rights Watch Senior Asia Researcher Nicholas Bequelin told the AFP news agency that the proposed changes were "worrisome,” and would allow police "to basically carry out legally enforced disappearances... keeping people up to six months without any need to notify anyone.”

Dozens of people have been detained in China in recent months, including Ai Weiwei, a prominent artist who was released in June after three months’ detention on tax evasion charges before being barred from leaving Beijing for one year.

High-profile human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng vanished in April 2010 and has not been heard from since.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based manager of human rights group Dui Hua, says that Beijing may want to legalise detentions in order to hush international outcry over recent perceived abuses.

The United States and the European Union has repeatedly criticised China’s human rights record. The Communist government maintains that it guarantees human rights for all citizens and that abuses may occur because the country is still developing.




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