After 27 years, the People’s Armed Police has been provided with a more solid legal basis.
Until 2009, the existence of the PAP was based on political documents, and broad and generic legal provisions. Its powers were defined and regulated by administrative regulations and rules. This legal basis was insufficient, scattered and in need of rationalisation.
- To a certain extent, the PAP Law seems to be based on internal rules and regulations. Therefore, a clarification of the PAP’s duties may benefit the public more than anyone else (apart from the PAP itself).
Wu Shuangzhan, commander of the PAP, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the People’s Armed Police Law is also based on internal rules and regulations:
“some documents and rules have a rather high level of secrecy, and are known within a very narrow circle, particularly those rules about the handling of riots, troops deployment and the use of firearms in case of violent incidents (…) therefore, there was the need to make internal regulations public.”
Unless these internal rules and regulations will be declassified or otherwise become accessible, it won’t be possible to say if the PAP law actually poses greater constraints on the power of the People’s Armed Police.
- Eight tasks have been bestowed upon the PAP (art. 7)
- the protection of strategic objectives, personnel and “important activities” (重大活动);
- the protection of infrastructures, enterprises, warehouses, water head sites, water conservancy sites and communication hubs;
- the protection of bridges and tunnels along major transportation lines;
- the protection of prisons and kanshousuos;
- performing armed patrols in the most important areas of municipalities, provincial capitals and other important urban centres;
- arresting, pursuing, escorting criminal suspects;
- handling riots, violent crimes, terrorist attacks and other public security incidents;
- other tasks. Clearly this catch-all clause allows to expand the powers of the PAP.
- The PAP enjoys the powers to (art. 10, 11, 13, 14, 15):
- Question those suspected of crimes or minor misdemeanors (违法犯罪嫌疑的人员) who are discovered during an armed patrol;
- Inspect persons, goods and means of communication that exit and enter areas under police control;
- Enforce traffic control and area denial duties;
- Control and disperse crowds;
- Collect information and conducting investigations;
- Restrain and hand over to the police or to state security organs those found in the course of committing a crime, wanted fugitives and those who carry forbidden goods
- Cooperate with public security organs and state security organs in performing body and house searches on: criminal suspects, defendants (被告人) and criminals (罪犯) in both overt and concealed 藏匿 crimes;
- Requisition goods;
- Use lethal and non-lethal weapons;
- Governments have the obligation to report to the local PAP headquarters any instance of mass incidents and/or riots (art. 23)
This mechanism can allow a swift and efficient response to unrest.
- Control over the PAP has been centralized to the Central Military Commission and the State Council (art. 8)
The PAP cannot be deployed by local-level governments. The PAP can only be deployed by the State Council and the Central Military Commission, according to yet to be specified procedures. These, as well as rules on the PAP ranks, should be issued in a near future.
Inclusion of this clause was necessary to avoid that the PAP be turned into a private army commanded by local governments, who are still responsible for budget allocation to the PAP. Opinions over who enjoys the power to mobilise and deploy the PAP were divided. While the first draft gave county level governments and public security organs the power to deploy the PAP (art. 7), this provision is absent from the law that was passed on Thursday.
Rules on the PAP chain of command can be found here.
- Legislative process
In 1995, the State Council and the Central Military Commission submitted a legislative proposal to the NPC. The bill was drafted by the PAP headquarters. In 2003, the draft law was listed on the Central Military Commission’s legislative plan. In 2007, it was listed on the State Council legislative plan, and only in 2008 it was put on the NPC plan. 15 different departments gave their opinion on the draft, which underwent six revisions.
The first reading of the law took place in April 2009. The law was adopted on August 27, after its second reading. A bill of law normally undergoes three readings before it is put to vote. In this case, the exception could have been motivated by the need to step up security after the recent riots in Xinjiang and before October 1.