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Legislative Authority

In April 1984 the State Council issued the Tentative Regulations Governing People's Republic of China Resident Identity. The regulations, to be implemented over a period of years, required all residents over sixteen years of age, except active-duty members of the PLA and the People's Armed Police Force and inmates serving sentences, to be issued resident identity cards by the Ministry of Public Security. The picture cards indicated the name, sex, nationality, date of birth, and address of the bearer. Cards for persons sixteen to twenty-five years of age were valid for ten years; those for persons between twenty-five and forty-five were valid for twenty years; and persons over forty-five were issued permanent cards. As of early 1987, only 70 million people had been issued identity cards, well below the national goal. Also, even those with resident identity cards preferred to use other forms of identification.

Public security officials also made extensive use of the authority granted them to impose administrative sanctions by two sets of documents. These were the 1957 Regulations on Reeducation Through Labor, which were reissued in 1979 with amendments, and the 1957 Regulations Governing Offenses Against Public Order, which were rescinded and replaced in 1986 by regulations of the same name. Offenders under the Regulations on Reeducation Through Labor might include "vagabonds, people who have no proper occupation, and people who repeatedly breach public order." The police could apprehend such individuals and sentence them to reeducation through labor with the approval of local labor-training administration committees. The 1957 regulations placed no limit on the length of sentences, but beginning in the early 1960s three or four years was the norm. The 1979 amended regulations, however, limited the length of reeducation through labor to three years with possible extension for extraordinary cases. The Regulations Governing Offenses Against Public Order empowered the police to admonish, fine, or detain people for up to fifteen days. Goods illegally in the possession of an offender were to be confiscated, and payment was imposed for damages or hospital fees in the event injury had been caused.

The criminal laws in force after January 1, 1980, restricted police powers regarding arrests, investigations, and searches. A public security official or a citizen could apprehend a suspect under emergency conditions, but a court or procuratorate was required to approve the arrest. The accused had to be questioned within twenty-four hours and his or her family or work unit notified of the detention "except in circumstances where notification would hinder the investigation or there was no way to notify them." Any premeditated arrest required a court or procuratorate warrant. The time that an accused could be held pending investigation was limited to three to seven days, and incarceration without due process was illegal.

Two officials were needed to conduct a criminal investigation. They were required to show identification and, apparently, to inform the accused of the crime allegedly committed before he or she was questioned. The suspect could refuse to answer only those questions irrelevant to the case. Torture was illegal.

The 1980 laws also provided that in conjunction with an arrest the police could conduct an emergency search; otherwise, a warrant was required. They had the right to search the person, property, and residence of an accused and the person of any injured party. They could intercept mail belonging to the accused and order an autopsy whenever cause of death was unclear.

In July 1980 the government approved new regulations governing police use of weapons and force. Police personnel could use their batons only in self-defense or when necessary to subdue or prevent the escape of violent criminals or rioters. Lethal weapons, such as pistols, could be used if necessary to stop violent riots, to lessen the overall loss of life, or to subdue surrounded but still resisting criminals. The regulations even governed use of sirens, police lights, and whistles.

In January 1996 authorities issued regulations requiring Internet users to register and sign a vaguely worded pledge not to use the Internet to endanger security. In September 1996 the Government blocked access to more than 100 news sites on the World Wide Web, including many Chinese language sites in Hong Kong and Taiwan and the sites of major Western news organizations. Sites hosted by dissidents were also blocked. During the year, China's Ministry of State Security was tasked with controlling material on line. Regulations allegedly adopted to preserve public security were used to implement Internet censorship.

Reportedly Chinese internet users will be required to register with Ministry of Public Security departments at the county and prefecture level within 30 days of being summoned. New users and users who change their hook-up or disconnect must also notify public security departments within 30 days. Those failing to comply will be dealt with in accordance with the country's Regulations on Protection of Computer Information System Security, administered by the Ministry's Computer Management and Monitoring Department

The "Administrative Measures for Ensuring the Security of Computer Information Network, the Internet," which the State Council approved on 11 December, was promulgated for implementation on 30 December. This administrative law for ensuring the security of the Internet is China's code of conduct for collective and individual subscribers of the Internet service.

Sources and Resources

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Updated Friday, January 02, 1998 7:14:32 AM