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Draft law: armed police authorized to handle riots
Updated: 2009-08-24 22:27

BEIJING: A draft law submitted to China's top legislature on Monday 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 (NPC), the top legislature, which opened its latest four-day, bi-monthly session Monday.

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

The new version of the draft contains clearer descriptions of "incidents threatening social security," a category that 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 did not include terrorist attacks in this category, but in a separate section.

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

Armed police will be responsible for the security of sites, including public facilities, factories, water projects "of national significance"; bridges and tunnels on major traffic routes; armed patrols of major cities "at special times"; assisting in pursuit and 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 a strict, legal procedure must be followed.

Instead of entitling government and police authorities at county level or higher to mobilize armed police as in the original version, the revision says a detailed procedure will be decided by the State Council and the Central Military Commission, the military's top decision-making body.

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 and military secrets or cover up crimes, the revised draft says.

The draft also highlights the force's mission to maintain national security and order.

The PAPF was founded in 1982 based on China's police force as an internal security force to protect important political figures, government buildings, major transport lines and natural resources such as gold mines.

Under the dual command of the Central Military Command (CMC) and the State Council, China's Cabinet, the PAPF is part of the country's armed forces and numbers about 680,000.

The armed police played a major role in quelling riots in Lhasa on March 14 last year and in Urumqi on July 5.