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Commentary: Don’t Exploit Powers in the Name of Law Enforcement; Did You Hear What Xi Said, Police?

(People's Daily Online)    08:15, May 21, 2016

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 20 chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform. He emphasized on the importance of regulating police law enforcement, and the need to achieve the team’s professionalism with behavioral standardization. He also stressed on the requirement of systemizing the management of law enforcement, as well as clarifying the flow and process of conducting when in action.

Law enforcement must be strictly supervised, and any outstanding problems currently existing in law enforcement must be solved, so to let Chinese people see the fairness and justice in the society through every law enforcement activity and every case handled, Xi said.

Xi’s words prompt one to be reminded of the recent case of Lei Yang’s death. That the 29-year-old man mysteriously died in police custody has indeed drawn significant attention across the country. Yet more importantly, a risk of people lacking trust towards China’s police law enforcement has widened. Was there a conspiracy between the policemen and the foot massage store so to obtain a favor from the fine for soliciting prostitution? Can police officers use violence whenever they like to arrest anyone on a street? When a person is found dead, should the police officers involved be placed under temporarily suspension and undergo investigation? When something similar happens, should the case be investigated by the team’s supervisors or procuratorial body from other locations? That the impression of police officers’ conduct is unregulated and outlawed is the root that explains why people cast doubt onto China’s law enforcement.

Based on the online posts uploaded by Chinese people recently, Lei Yang’s case is not an independent case. In Yuzhong County, Gansu Province, two college students received caning for videoing how police arresting people violently. It is apparent that police authorities’ exploitation of powers has become serious. A well-known writer revealed that there was once a governor of a province got handcuffed and slapped by police, just because he went to have a meal in a restaurant like other people did. The fact is that many police officers are doing things against the law in the name of law enforcement.

China is not a country without regulations. It is clearly spelled out in the “People's Police Law of the People's Republic of China” that police cannot subject criminals or suspects to corporal punishment or maltreat them. Should they violate this rule, the officer shall immediately be placed under administrative sanction. If evidence is enough to constitute the conduct as a crime, the officer involved may bear the criminal liability. But in practice, frequent cases emerge where police recklessly exploit powers and infringe the rights of people. Yet with social media platforms circulating news and information quickly nowadays, and with expression of public opinion more centralized, together with people’s higher awareness on citizen rights, policemen will surely be confronted by a stronger rebound of public opinion should they not regulate their conduct timely.

To all chiefs of public security bureau across China, and to all police chiefs and police officers, you better listen and think carefully of the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks today, and better take action to implement it in practice. 

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