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August 25, 2009

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Armed police may get more duties

A DRAFT law submitted to China's top legislature yesterday gives the country's armed police new duties with a statutory authorization to respond to riots, terrorist attacks and other social emergencies.

The draft revision was tabled at the 10th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress, the top legislature, which opened its latest four-day, bimonthly session.

One of the eight major responsibilities that the new law confers upon the People's Armed Police Force is "to participate in the handling of riots, chaos, serious violent crimes and terrorist attacks."

The new draft contains clearer descriptions of "incidents threatening social security," which is the responsibility of the armed police.

In the new version, riots, mass violent crimes and terrorist attacks are listed as "incidents threatening social security."

The original draft included terrorist attacks in a separate section.

The draft law also mandates that the PAPF shoulders the responsibility to patrol municipalities, provincial and regional capitals and other important cities in times of emergency.

Armed police will be responsible for the security of sites including public facilities, factories, water projects "of national significance," as well as bridges and tunnels on major traffic routes. The force will also be responsible for patrolling major cities "at special times," assisting in arrests and dealing with public security incidents.

The draft, if approved, would also empower the armed police to stop and question suspects in the course of operations, enable them to commandeer public transport when necessary, and to use equipment, facilities, venues and other materials of an organization or individual temporarily in emergencies.

The revision also tightens the procedure for the mobilization of armed police and makes clear that a strict legal procedure must be followed.

The draft adds four articles to restrict the power of armed police in response to lawmakers' arguments from the first reading.

Detaining or searching people or their property "illegally" has been banned. The armed police also should not leak state secrets or cover up crimes, the draft says.


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