Report 'Scratches Surface' of Power Abuse in China


2014-02-12
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china-zhou-yongkang-mar-2012-600.jpg Zhou Yongkang at the National People's Congress opening session in Beijing, March 5, 2012.
AFP

A recent report by the ruling Chinese Communist Party on judicial and police misconduct only scratches the surface of widespread abuse of power by law enforcement agencies, analysts said on Wednesday.

The party's law enforcement arm recently published the results of 10 probes into violations of the legal code by police officers, judges and prosecutors, which it says are "typical" of its disciplinary work, official media reported.

They include a policeman found drunk at the wheel of his police car, a judge who had an affair with a lawyer, and a Supreme People's Court official who took bribes to change the outcome of trials.

The drink-driving policeman was expelled from the force and his superiors punished, state-run news agency Xinhua said, but didn't name any of the officers involved.

The judge and court official were expelled from the party and from public office respectively, the agency quoted the party's Commission for Political and Legal Affairs as saying.

"The commission said it will continue to publicize typical cases this year and welcomes supervision by the public," Xinhua said.

It quoted Zhou Hanhua, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that the "black sheep" of Chinese law enforcement must be eliminated.

The report was evidence of the no-holds-barred implementation of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, Xinhua said.

Little improvement

But Beijing-based rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said there had been little improvement to corruption and abuse of power in law enforcement agencies on the ground since Xi took power in November 2012.

"The regime's practices have been proven to be terrible in the past, and at the beginning of last year, I still had some hopes for [the new administration of President] Xi Jinping," he said.

"But now, I don't hold out any hope for Xi Jinping any more. There are no signs at all that the line taken by [former Commission chief] Zhou Yongkang has been corrected in any way," Pu added.

A corruption investigation begun last year into China's former security czar Zhou Yongkang has widened to cover his family and allies, according to unconfirmed reports from Chinese political sources.

Speculation is rife that the authorities may be getting ready to charge the former member of the party's elite Politburo Standing Committee with abuse of power.

The Communist Party's disciplinary agency is currently investigating Li Dongsheng, vice minister for public security and a key Zhou ally, for "suspected serious law and discipline violations."

Zhou stepped down from his post as Politburo standing committee member and Commission chief in November 2012, where he wielded huge power, political analysts say. Zhou's post has since been downgraded to report to the committee.

Behind-the-scene glimpse

Pu said the Commission's report didn't indicate anything significant with regard to the Zhou investigation, however.

"These 10 cases that they have released involve fairly low-ranking officials," Pu said. "There are no really high-ranking officials in it."

"They range from a beat cop to a county level official, and involve things like murder, assault, reckless behavior and bribe-taking," he said.

"We can't take this to mean that Zhou Yongkang is being purged, nor that he is being released," Pu said. "But I do think that Zhou Yongkang is in trouble."

Meanwhile, former Xinhua journalist Yang Jisheng, now deputy editor of the cutting-edge political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, said that the report was to be welcomed, if only because it gave a glimpse behind the scenes of some of China's most powerful agencies.

"The whole political and legal affairs system is very powerful, so corruption there can do far more damage," Yang said. "There needs to be increased scrutiny, because human life is beyond value."

"At least this shows a dark side [to law enforcement] and might prevent such things from happening again in future," he said.

'Stability maintenance'

Concerns are mounting among rights activists and lawyers over the increasing use of extrajudicial detention and abuse of power in police custody under China's massive nationwide "stability maintenance" system.

Last week, more than 1,000 people signed an open letter to President Xi calling for better protection of citizens' rights under the law, and for a nationwide system for monitoring human rights abuses.

The letter, titled "Stability is Founded on Rights Protection," called on Xi to allow rights groups to register legally, to set up a human rights ministry, and to enact laws guaranteeing the right to freedom of speech, a free press, and the right to free association and demonstration.

The letter, which had garnered more than 1,200 signatures by Wednesday morning, also called for a "strike hard" campaign against human rights violators, and a collaboration mechanism for nongovernment groups to work with officials on human rights issues.

Activists say that rights violations have continued apace in recent weeks, citing large numbers of detentions of ordinary citizens last year, as well as the "suicide" death of Xue Fushun, father of prominent Shandong activist Xue Mingkai, in police custody last week, which many regard as suspicious.

The open letter laid the blame for an increase in rights violations firmly at the door of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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