Armed police on duty Monday in downtown Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Northwest China. China's top legislature is expected to pass the country's first law on armed police, giving them legal backing to handle riots. [Photo by Zhou You/China Daily]
Armed police, a major force to maintain State security and social stability, are set to get legal backing to help them handle riots.
The legislature is expected to pass the country's first law on armed police on Thursday to make that possible.
"The security forces are facing increasingly complicated situations, especially after the July 5 riot in Xinjiang, which makes the adoption of such a law urgent," said Li Wei, director of the center for counter-terrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
The coming Oct 1 festivities will put pressure on the police, he said.
The revised draft of the armed police law was submitted to the top legislature for a second reading Monday, four months after its first review.
It makes clear that the armed police would be responsible for handling public security incidents such as "riots, unrest, large-scale violent crimes and terrorist attacks".
The first draft only stated the team helps handle "public security incidents and terrorist attacks".
The change is being made following suggestions from the local and central departments, said Liu Xirong, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Law Committee.
"The armed police played a key role in handling the Lhasa riot last year and the riot in Xinjiang last month.
"Based on that experience, we'd better make clear their responsibility in similar incidents," Liu said.
Eighteen people were killed and hundreds injured in the riot in Lhasa, in the Tibet autonomous region, last March. In the July 5 Urumqi riot, 197 were killed and more than 1,600 were injured.
In both incidents, armed police helped bring the situation under control.
The draft cancels a stipulation that authorizes county-level governments to mobilize and deploy armed police.
Instead, it says the mobilization and deployment of armed police should be in line with relevant rules from the State Council and Central Military Commission.
"At present, mass incidents are usually triggered by civil problems such as unemployment or house reallocation. Once armed police are deployed, the conflicts may escalate," the NPC's legislative affairs commission said in a document.
The revised draft regulates the armed police's behavior by saying they "cannot illegally detain or search people". Nor could they help cover crimes or turn a blind eye when other people are facing safety threats.
Liu said the NPC Law Committee considers the latest draft law "well-written" - it could be submitted for a vote on Thursday.
If so, the draft of the armed police law would have received only two readings at the top legislature. A draft bill usually receives at least three readings before becoming a law, according to the Legislation Law.
Once adopted, the law would take effect immediately. Legal experts said the shortened legislative procedure reflects the heavy security task that the armed police force is facing.
Dalielihan Mamihan, an NPC Standing Committee member and former vice-chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said the detailed definition of "public security incidents" would make it easier for the police to determine their responsibilities.
Wu Shuangzhan, commander-in-chief of the armed police, in April called for quick adoption of such a law, as "it offers legal backing for the team's performance".
While ordinary police mainly deal with crime, armed police are a paramilitary force that shoulders heavier security duties, primarily responsible for the security of important places such as central government buildings, embassies and major public facilities.