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China introduces regulations governing abuse of power prosecutions

[JURIST] China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) [official website, in Chinese; Wikipedia backgrounder], the country's highest criminal prosecution body, has issued new regulations outlining 42 offenses constituting abuses of authority in a bid to prevent torture of criminal suspects and other malfeasance. The regulations are meant to provide criteria for prosecuting authorities to follow when launching investigations. The offenses include divulging state secrets, releasing detainees without authority to do so, failing to properly collect taxes, selling land-use rights below value, and obtaining criminal confessions through torture, violent means or abuse.

According to SPP Vice President Wang Zhenchuan [China Vitae profile], the SPP did not have clear criteria to follow when determining if a public official was abusing their power. Previously, the SPP prohibited law enforcement from using "brutal means" to obtain a confession, and defined "brutal means" as an action that caused "serious results," without any guidelines. The new regulations clearly define torture as beating, binding, freezing, starving, exposing suspects to severe weather, severe injury, and ordering others to use torture. Xinhua has more. In 2005, the Chinese parliament passed a bill that mandates punishment for police who torture detainees during interrogation [JURIST report], but a UN mission to China earlier this year found that torture is still widespread [JURIST report], although China insists it is banned.

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