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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Chinese Law Curbs Power of Officials to Deploy Armed Police

August 28, 2009

Bloomberg News
August 27, 2009

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) -- China’s lawmakers have
curbed the power of local officials to call out
the country’s 680,000- strong People’s Armed Police to quell disturbances.

The new law governing the deployment of the
force, passed today 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.

The government in China has made maintaining
social stability a key policy aim at the same
time as cracking down on the corruption and abuse
of power that is a cause of much of the unrest.
Local officials under orders from Beijing to
maintain the peace are likely to put pressure on
the police to act, said Murray Scot Tanner, a
China analyst at CNA, an Alexandria, Virginia-based research group.

"This clause represents a striking critique of
some officials’ misuse of security forces," said
Tanner. "But these local leaders remain powerful.
It may prove difficult for Armed Police
commanders and higher level officials to stick to
their guns and resist this kind of pressure."

The police force, used to quell riots last year
in Tibet and last month in the western region of
Xinjiang, is to "participate in the handling of
riots, chaos, serious violent crimes and
terrorist attacks," according to the text of the
legislation given to journalists in Beijing today.

Wang Erping, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of
Sciences who studies unrest, said the number of
so-called mass incidents rose to about 90,000
last year from more than 80,000 in 2007.

Last month steel workers in northeastern China’s
Jilin Province murdered an executive, causing
authorities to put off a buyout of their mill. On
Aug. 8, villagers in Hunan province rioted after
they learned their children had been exposed to
excessive levels of lead, the Associated Press reported.

The legislation also bans the force from
detaining or searching people illegally and
forbids police officers from leaking state secrets.

China’s congress also passed legislation that
codifies the country’s policy on combating climate change.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael
Forsythe in Beijing at mforsythe@bloomberg.net
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