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Attack on Xi'an police opens legal can of worms
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-09 05:56

XI'AN: Four of the 13 suspects involved in an attack on two police officers were arrested yesterday in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, while other suspects on the run have been urged to give themselves up.

"Besides the four arrested, another suspect has given himself up. We are leaving no stone unturned in trying to capture the others. It is better for them to turn themselves in as soon as possible," said Dong Jun, head of the Xi'an Municipal Public Security Bureau.

On Monday night, eight people wielding knives and axes attacked two police officers who were attending a call to a fight in the city's eastern suburbs, according to Luo Ping, deputy chief of the Xincheng District Public Security Bureau.

"At about 9:40 pm, we received a report that some people were fighting at the Dongguan petrol station, we rushed to the scene. We learned that the fight had been started by two young men who harassed a female clerk at the station," said Wang Junliang, one of the policemen who were attacked and injured. Other workers, trying to protect the woman clerk, grappled with the two men.

When the police tried to take the two men and the clerk to the police station for questioning, two cars arrived and about eight people jumped out, trying to stop them.

"They attacked us with knives, axes and clubs, and then took the two young men and sped off."

Initial investigations showed that a total of 13 suspects, some of whom were behind the scenes, were involved in the attack. All of them are believed to be farmers from a nearby village. The two young men, one 19 and the other 17, often harassed female staff at the station, local police sources alleged.

It is the eighth assault on police officers in the province since May. Altogether 14 policemen have been injured while on duty, dealing with civil disputes and traffic violations, according to the Shaanxi Provincial Public Security Bureau.

In addition, the police 110 hotline is also under a lot of pressure. The latest case is of a local resident found making 131 calls to the hotline for two days. "I just wanted to try out my new phone," the man told the police after he was detained on Monday.

"So many cases of assaults on police have received a great deal of attention from both the local police authority and the public. In my opinion, laws should be drafted to better protect police," said Zhai Minhua, a law expert with the Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhai believes that current laws are not sufficient to protect police.

According to Zhai, assaulting police officers is not listed as a crime under China's Criminal Law, which only serves as a guide for meting out punishment for other defined crimes.

The crime of interfering with the exercise of public function defined by the People's Police Law tends to protect public servants when on duty. It does not, however, specifically define the crime of assaulting police officers, who are constantly exposed to all kinds of violence.

Zhai did caution that some police officers should be more aware of their attitudes and methods when attending incidents, as rudeness can trigger hostile reactions. "In some cases, police officers themselves have broken the law and behaved inappropriately," Wang said.

"Also, legal awareness on the part of the general public needs to be enhanced. Some people just don't understand the law and they judge the actions of the police by their own narrow experience or subjective ideas," Zhai said.

(China Daily 09/09/2005 page3)

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