(New York) – The Chinese government should significantly revise the country’s draft Police Law to bring it into conformity with international standards, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday in a submission to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Protesters are pepper sprayed by police during a protest against what they call Beijing's interference over local politics and the rule of law.

“Police abuses caught on tape and widely viewed have made the force deeply unpopular,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “But the draft revisions to the Police Law do little to make the police more accountable, and actually expand the force’s powers in ways that could exacerbate abuses.”

Specifically, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the draft revisions will:

  • Allow police to use firearms under conditions that go well beyond those permitted by international standards, including against people peacefully advocating for human rights or criticizing the Communist Party;
  • Empower police to carry out unspecified “network controls” on the internet and other telecommunications, which may include network suspension; and
  • Fail to impose meaningful curbs on wide existing police powers.
The Chinese government needs to impose strict limits to curb police powers and procedural safeguards that actually protect citizens from abuses.

Sophie Richardson

China Director

Human Rights Watch has for many years documented a range of police abuses, including the use of torture against criminal suspects, pervasive surveillance and censorship, repression of ethnic minorities, violence and detention against peaceful activists, harassment of non-governmental organizations, violence against journalists, and the use of force to break up peaceful protests.

“The Chinese government needs to impose strict limits to curb police powers and procedural safeguards that actually protect citizens from abuses,” Richardson said. “The revisions to the Police Law provide an opportunity for real reform – if the authorities choose to seize that chance.”