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China lawmakers weigh draft law giving police more clout to control riots

[JURIST] China's National People's Congress (NPC) [official website, in Chinese] on Monday considered a draft bill [text, in Chinese] that would allow the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) to respond to riots. The proposed legislation would also allow the PAPF to respond [Xinhua report] to terrorist attacks and other social emergencies. A detailed protocol for deploying the PAPF would be determined later by the State Council and the Central Military Commission. The draft bill also includes provisions to prevent the PAPF from illegally detaining or searching people, in response to lawmakers' objections after the bill's first reading. Monday's session was the bill's second reading, and it could be voted on [China Daily report] as early as Thursday. This would be the country's first law on armed police.

The proposed law comes as Chinese authorities prepare for the upcoming 60th anniversary of Communist rule, which will take place in October. Beijing has reportedly enhanced security [Xinhua report] in response to fears of violent protests or terrorist attacks. The proposed law is also largely in response to the recent riots [JURIST news archive] between ethnic minority Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi. Earlier this month, Chinese authorities announced [JURIST report] charges of murder, intentional injury, arson, and robbery against 83 people accused of participating in violent demonstrations. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman has said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, are detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although Uighur advocacy groups maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police.

8/27/09: The law was passed [China Daily report after its second reading Thursday.

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