Chinese police are still in firm control of detention centers.
The News Lens
By: Margaret K. Lewis
Last Saturday, the window closed for comments on the draft PRC Detention Center Law. The
Ministry of Public Security touts the draft law’s ability to protect human rights (人权保障), and the release of the long-awaited draft at least indicates the government’s acknowledgment that existing legal provisions are inadequate. Yet any celebrations about an improvement to current detention practices is premature.
This post briefly explains why detention centers are a focal point of concern and will introduce the draft law. It then urges a skeptical wait-and-see attitude both because other recent criminal justice reforms on paper have fallen short of expectations and because the draft law retains the fundamental power structure that emboldens the police.
Concerns for Human Rights Protections in Detention Centers
In February 2016, the United Nations Committee against Torture reported that the PRC has failed to implement robustly the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee seriously questioned China’s claim that it is making “enormous efforts” to stop torture: “[T]he practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the [PRC] criminal justice system . . .” (para. 20). The Committee’s report largely reiterated existing concerns rather than breaking new ground, but it was noteworthy for being a scathing rebuke from an international body.
The PRC submitted its follow-up response to the report in January 2017. The response contended that “China has always attached great importance to strengthening the protection of the right of detainees to see a lawyer and to notify family member” and that “[d]uring inquiries into allegations of torture by the public security police, [procuratorates] are able to ensure the independence of the investigation.” The release of the draft Detention Center Law followed on the heels of this rebuke of the UN committee’s findings. [FULL STORY]