China's chengguan, a para-police organization charged with enforcing non-criminal administrative regulations, is abusing its power, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF; press release] Wednesday. The report indicated that although the chengguan are not authorized to arrest citizens or use excessive force, they frequently do both. In addition, HRW reported citizens have had their property illegally confiscated by the officers and journalists have been subject to violence and illegal arrest for reporting chengguan abuses. HRW called on the Chinese government to take action to end the abuse:
China's leadership should publicly and unambiguously condemn chengguan assaults on and illegal detention of suspected administrative law violators, emphasizing that such malfeasance is illegal and announcing new measures to ensure rigorous investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution of chengguan officers believed responsible for such acts. The leadership should also establish an independent commission which includes representatives of the Public Security Bureau, the Chinese Communist Party’s Political Legal Committee, and academics and lawyers familiar with problems in the regulation and operations of chengguan to assess chengguan performance and suggest further reforms.The report also suggested that China should consider eliminating and replacing the chengguan.
China's detention policies and police activity have long been criticized. In March China's National People's Congress (NPC) passed a law [JURIST report] allowing police to detain certain suspects for up to six months in secret detention facilities commonly known as "black jails." In January Chinese authorities sentenced prominent rights activist Li Tie [JURIST report] to 10 years in prison for subversion, marking the third such sentence in a month. In July 2010 the Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued an order directing the country's police forces to stop publicly shaming suspects and prisoners after officers in the southern city of Dongguan paraded roped and handcuffed suspected prostitutes down a city street and posted pictures of the event on the internet. Earlier that month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to launch an independent investigation into law enforcement conduct during the July 2009 Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive], accusing police of executing arbitrary arrests and employing excessive force.