— Senior members of China’s
legislature approved a law on Thursday detailing the authority of the People’s Armed
Police, a large paramilitary force that was criticized in some quarters as
slow to respond to the riots in the
western Xinjiang region last month, in which nearly 200 people died.
new law appears to address those concerns by clarifying how and when the troops
may be deployed.
law is the first to explicitly govern the force, whose members serve as border
guards, security guards for government officials, firefighters and relief
workers during disasters but who are best known outside China for their role in
suppressing political and social unrest.
troops will have authority in “handling rebellion, riots, large-scale serious
criminal violence, terror attacks and other social safety incidents,” according
to a summary of the law published by the state-run Xinhua news agency before the
measure was approved.
legislation also apparently removes the authority of county-level local
officials to summon the force to handle disorders. Chinese citizens have
complained that the armed police are sometimes enlisted by low-level government
officials to abusively bolster their powers, sometimes with excessive force.
of the size of the People’s Armed Police have ranged as high as 1.5 million
troops, but the government said the number in 2006 was 660,000. Once seen as
corrupt and ill trained, the armed police have become more professional in
recent years. But they sometimes are regarded as unaccountable, and human rights
advocates have accused the troops of brutality and insensitivity to the law in
handling civil disorders.
troops’ contact with average Chinese citizens has grown in recent years as
China’s economic transformation — and dislocation — has led to an increasing
number of spontaneous street protests.
Jintao, in Xinjiang on Tuesday, told armed police troops there that ensuring
social stability was “the most urgent task” they faced.
Yukai, a professor at China’s National School of Administration, said in an
interview on Thursday that stripping local officials of the authority to summon
the police was perhaps the most important provision of the new legislation.
is to prevent the misuse of the armed police by local governments, to prevent
the deaths of innocent people,” he said.
is inevitable given China’s rapid changes, Mr. Wang said, but “sometimes it is
counterproductive to use force.”
think the government understands this and does not want to see it happen,” he