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Secret Arrests In China: Protecting The Regime, Not The People

Op-Ed: New measures have been announced in China to require authorities to inform families of anyone arrested. It is a small sign of progress, but caveats in the law mean that secret arrests are sure to continue. What is the regime afraid of?

The fog of justice (dbaron)
The fog of justice (dbaron)
Chen Jieren

BEIJING - Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, has just submitted a much talked about revision of China's Criminal Procedure Law to the on-going Congress.

Explaining the draft to a plenary meeting of the legislative session, Wang said the revised draft will stipulate that the family of any suspect arrested or placed under house arrest must be informed within 24 hours. But there is a notable exception: in the case of those suspected of endangering national security or committing terrorist acts, the detained person's family should be informed only once the knowledge is thought to pose no impediment to the investigation.

Under the existing provisions of the law, the interpretation of "impeding the investigation" is relatively vague, and is too often used as a pretext by judicial institutions and law enforcement officers for silent detentions. The power to keep arrests secret is regularly abused, and there is no mechanism for the suspects to seek legal remedy.

That the revision will strictly define two specific conditions for an "impediment of investigation," and will rule out the legality of secret arrests in other types of cases, is a clear step forward.

Nevertheless, secret arrests are bound to remain a problem. In that first critical moment in the criminal proceedings, an arrested suspect risks being denied his right to legal remedy. It is a major threat to human rights, which can all too easily lead to a miscarriage of justice.

Over the past decade, secret detentions have been widespread in China. Torture, witness coercion, and extended detention have been used and have led to unjust trials. Demands for modifying the current law had been growing louder and louder in the weeks and months before the Congress.

If the legislature is determined to abolish the secret arrest system, but only while somehow excluding cases of "endangering state security" and "terrorist activities," the amendment will not represent much progress from the former fuzzy definition.

There are two reasons for allowing secret arrests: first, is that the investigation of one of these types of crimes needs to be conducted in secret; second, the interests of state security or social public order are of greater importance than the value of human rights.

Security for the regime

Yet in China, the accusation of endangering state security is really a way of saying endangering the regime's security. In other words, if the secret arrest of a suspected person is allowed, it means that China's political ideas and values have more respect for a regime's rights than individual human rights -- and the state is more important than the public.

However, in a truly modern country that exists under the rule of law, human rights stand at the forefront of the order of society's values.

If endangering state security or committing terrorist acts can be used as a reason for allowing secret detention, there will be endless excuses allowing the secret handling of other types of crimes, such as drug-related crimes, arms smuggling and…bribery.

If we permit secret detention, then a law enforcement agency can always place the hat of a suspected terrorist on an arrested person.

Known as the "mini-constitution," the core issue in modifying the Criminal Procedure Law is to implement the "respect and protection of human rights' as written in the constitution. It is a law that involves holding the citizen criminally accountable, and ultimately defines whether one can be legally deprived of freedom, property or even one's life.

Generally speaking, the accused is the vulnerable party. Even the slightest miscarriage can lead to their basic rights being violated, a wrongful trial or wrongful captivity.

To protect suspects and defendants is in fact to protect the entire public.

We believe that exposing all judicial proceedings to the bright light of the sun will not cause the sky to fall upon us, but will actually guide our society to the place where it may be illuminated by the rule of law and the supremacy of human rights.

Read original article in Chinese

Photo - dbaron

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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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