On September 5, China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) released a draft regulation on its official website, vowing to protect the authority of China’s police.
The MPS claimed that the draft, titled “Regulation on the public security organ safeguarding the authority of the police,” was formulated in order to ensure that the police can “perform their duties according to law, exercise their powers, safeguard the dignity of the state’s laws, combat crimes, protect the lives and property of the people, and maintain a good social order.”
According to the draft, the public security organ should actively protect the authority of police when they come under pressure — whether that means a police officer being under physical attack, having their relatives threatened, or facing “malicious complaint.” The regulation lists nine specific examples when the MPS should protect police authority, but ends with the catch-all of “other circumstances when the law enforcement’s authority is damaged.”
Those who damage the police’s authority should be punished according to laws or regulations, the draft says.
Additionally, the draft stipulates that if a police officer, while performing his or her duty, causes damage to the legitimate interests of citizens, legal persons, or other organizations, the individual police officer shall not bear legal responsibility. The public security organ shall compensate for the damage caused in accordance with relevant state regulations.
The MPS said it is soliciting public comments on the draft regulation until October 6. But typically in China a draft regulation or a draft law will undergo only minor changes (if any) after it is publicly released.
As soon as the draft was released, China’s state newspapers published a number of commentaries lauding the regulation. The commentaries claimed that the new regulation can ensure that Chinese policemen will perform their duty with dignity.
However, many Chinese netizens pointed out online that the new regulation might further corner Chinese citizens when faced with police brutality.
In recent years, conflicts between Chinese police and citizens have dramatically increased.
In January, the MPS publicly admitted that a series of clashes between the police and the local people had broke out in provinces including Henan, Shandong, and Hunan. Without providing details on those cases, the MPS revealed that the police officers had been insulted and even attacked when performing their duties. Thus, the MPS vowed to “seriously pursue the legal responsibility of those mobs.”
Meanwhile, scandals of police brutality have erupted online again and again.
One of the many sensational cases in recent years dates from 2016, when Lei Yang, a 29-year-old graduate of prestigious Renmin University, died suddenly during police custody. The five Beijing policemen who were accused of using improper force and covering up Lei’s death were released without punishment in the end.
Such cases have severely hurt not only the image of Chinese police but also the people’s trust in China’s rule of law.
To make matters worse, the power of China’s police has significantly increased thanks to the fast development of technology. Now, technology such as big data and facial recognition programs has been widely adopted by Chinese law enforcement across the country. However, there is no law in China to check the police from abusing their increasing power.
Against that backdrop, the conflicts between Chinese police and citizens will probably keep increasing in the future, even if the draft regulation will take effect soon.