China considering changes to give police new legal powers

BEIJING – Chinese police will gain new legal powers to detain suspects for up to six months without telling their families where or why they are held, according to a state newspaper’s account of planned reforms.

Human rights activists and legal scholars warned that the change would legitimise an alarming pattern of detentions under the “residential surveillance” law, which was initially intended as a less punitive measure than formal detention.

The Legal Daily newspaper reported that proposed changes include allowing police to hold suspects in national security, terrorism or major corruption cases in a “specified location”, if holding them at home would impede the investigation. The decision would need to be approved by higher officials.

In such cases, the police would not have to notify the suspect’s family if they believed it might hinder the investigation.

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