China to water down secret detention law: Experts

The National People`s Congress will remove some planned changes to the Criminal Procedure Law.

Beijing: China`s Parliament is set to water
down controversial changes to a law that would allow secret
detentions, people with knowledge of the issue said on Monday,
following an outcry over the move.

The National People`s Congress, opening its annual
session next Monday, will remove some planned changes to the
Criminal Procedure Law that would have made it legal to lock
up suspects in secret locations for six months without charge.

Chen Guangzhong, the influential honorary chairman of the
China Legal Society, said to a news agency he had seen the latest draft of
the law, and legislators had deleted some of what critics have
dubbed the "disappearance clauses".

These clauses ruled that police did not have to tell
family the whereabouts of suspects arrested, detained or under
surveillance in national security, terrorism or major graft
cases, if such notifications impeded a criminal probe.

The clauses triggered an uproar, with critics saying the
changes amounted to legalising human rights violations.

Prominent activist Hu Jia compared them to methods used by the
former Soviet Union`s KGB secret police.

The practice of so-called "enforced disappearances"
already exists in China, but the amendments would have given
it extra legal clout.

Rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, for instance, was taken away
in 2010 and was held largely incommunicado for nearly 20
months. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo also suffered from
these "disappearances."

But Chen said to a news agency the latest draft of the law -- to be
voted on during the NPC`s session -- now rules that police
inform family members of the whereabouts of suspects arrested
or placed under residential surveillance within 24 hours.

"This is a new breakthrough in the amendment and is an
added safeguard for human rights. The draft should now have no
problem in passing -- there is an over 90 per cent chance it
will pass," he said to a news agency.

But he cautioned that in the case of criminal detentions
-- legally different to arrests -- police have been given a
longer period of 37 days to inform families, if such a
notification impedes their investigation.

Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch,
told AFP "numerous (China-based) diplomatic sources" also told
him Chinese officials had informed them the clauses would be

Calls to the NPC`s press office went unanswered.