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Security laws tackle most sensitive issues

China Daily

The Law on Penalties in Public Security Administration was a major media story when it was enacted six months ago, and it was very much in the spotlight yesterday when it came into effect.

It is worth the attention as it touches upon one of civic China's most sensitive nerves.

Many opinion polls have pointed to security concerns as a major saboteur of our collective sense of well-being.

Upgraded from a legislative act in effect for 19 years, the law features an addition of 165 new offences subject to penalties. These range from dissemination of pornographic text messages, covert photography or intrusion of others' privacy, to crowd misconduct such as football hooliganism. Even unruly pets may cause trouble for their owners.

A broader coverage certainly renders a higher degree of security.

Our praise, however, goes to the law's humane touch as well as its attempt to regulate the regulators.

While spelling out more specific penalties for violations, the law stipulates that the penalty of detention does not apply to first-time offenders under 18 years of age, all offenders under 16, seniors above 70, as well as women who are pregnant or are breast-feeding an infant/infants born less than a year ago.

The exemption of minors was a result of lawmakers' preference for education over punishment. The price of such exemption was a fine in the draft version of the law, which is now gone.

A major upgrade from the previous act is the incorporation of a special chapter on supervision of police conduct. The focus is on procedure.

With more attention to the specifics, fines in particular, the law considerably squeezes the room left for police officers' own interpretation. This is a sensible way to guard against abuse.

Police officers will have to apologize or even pay compensation for misdeeds when carrying out official duties.

The law may not be an omnipotent amulet against police abuse, be it an unwarranted search, an interrogation, or detention. But it assures us of a legal redress once such harm does occur.

But that law was not the only reason why our media gave yesterday a special legal significance.

There were several other laws and administrative rules that may make our everyday lives easier.

The Regulations on AIDS Prevention and Treatment tackles a very tricky issue that causes discord and ambivalence in present-day China.

While promising AIDS/HIV sufferers legal privacy protection and non-discriminative treatment in marriage, employment, education, and medical services, the decree prohibits them from intentionally disseminating the virus.

Ignorance, prejudice, sense of abandonment, and subsequent hostility in extreme cases are working together to invalidate the nation's campaign to rein in the spreading epidemic.

The Law on Notarization and the rules on management of notary offices, which usher in a liability mechanism, may help restore public confidence in this special branch of the Chinese judiciary. Lack of self-discipline has to a great extent ruined the integrity of notarization as a profession.

Many things will be a lot simpler if we can trust notaries without fearing their betrayal.

The Rules on the Administration of Entertainment Venues prohibits State organs as well as their functionaries and close relatives from operation of such facilities.

That is a prescription of cleanness. Entertainment venues are in many eyes hotbeds of many evils because of their complex relationship with system insiders. In many cases, collusion between government officials and underworld gangs has turned these places into law enforcement blind spots.

Our evenings may become more enjoyable if government officials withdraw and the underworld loses its protective umbrella.

The decree on the so-called blue lines in cities, also effective yesterday, affects our lives in a more direct way.

It is a plan to protect the water systems of our cities. The blue lines mark the territory where surface water bodies, such as rivers, lakes and wetlands, come under special protection and control.

Most of our cities' water sources have been polluted. We hope the law will at least prevent the situation from deteriorating.

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