The 1982 Constitution of the People's Republic of China (as amended through 2018), which "is the fundamental law of the state and has supreme legal authority" guarantees the protection of the dignity of all its citizens.Preamble and Art. 38, 1982 Constitution of China (as amended).The Constitution does not protect the right to life or to freedom from torture or other forms of inhumane treatment.
The 1982 Constitution does not specifically refer to the police or other law enforcement bodies. It stipulates, however, that:
All state organs, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations, and all enterprises and undertakings must abide by the Constitution and the law.Art. 5, 1982 Constitution of China (as amended).
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Signatory*|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
* Both Hong Kong and Macau are covered by the ICCPR following their return to China by, respectively, the United Kingdom (in 1992) and Portugal (in 1997).
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Asian nations can adhere.
Police Use of Force
The 1995 People's Police Law of the People's Republic of ChinaPeople's Police Law of the People's Republic of China, adopted at the 12th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress on 28 February 1995 and promulgated by Order No. 40 of the President of the People's Republic of China on 28 February 1995.states that the police may not use unlawful violence against criminals or suspects:
Police officers may not extort confession by torture or subject criminals to corporal punishment or maltreat them.Art. 22(4), 1995 People's Police Law.
Should they violate this rule, the officer shall immediately be placed under administrative sanction. If there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed, the officer responsible may be held criminally responsible.
If a people's policeman who, in violation of the regulations, uses a weapon or police implements, thus constituting a crime, he shall be investigated for criminal responsibility according to law; if the case does not constitute a crime, he shall be given an administrative sanction in accordance with the law.Art. 49, 1995 People's Police Law.
With respect to firearms, in late 2016 a change was proposed to the 1995 People's Police Law that would allow the police to shoot at fleeing suspects irrespective of whether or not the suspects were armed. It is not known whether the proposed amendment has passed into law.
There is no independent, external police oversight body in China. Under Article 42 of the 1995 People's Police Law, however, the police
in performing their duties shall accept supervision by the People's Procuratorates and administrative supervisory organs in accordance with law.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on China, the Committee against Torture stated that it had
received numerous reports from credible sources that document in detail cases of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearances of Tibetans. In addition, allegations have been received about acts directed against Uyghurs and Mongolians.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on China, UN doc. CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, 3 February 2016, §40.
It urged China to
ensure that all custodial deaths, disappearances, allegations of torture and ill-treatment and reported use of excessive force against persons in the autonomous region of Tibet and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties, and in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, are promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent mechanism.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on China, UN doc. CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, 3 February 2016, §41.
There is no regional human rights body to which alleged victims of excessive use of police force can complain.
In 2016, addressing senior government officials, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to address the problems of police brutality by putting in place tougher regulations. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, the Minister for Public Security, Guo Shengkun, later emphasised the need to educate the country’s police force to understand and “consciously respect the law.” Guo also called for better training to boost legal literacy and law enforcement capacity among all police officers, especially those at local levels.
[We need] to educate the whole police force to consciously respect the law, study the law and abide by the law and to strictly standardise law enforcement to ensure justice.
In 2017, an academic paper concluded that there existed a code of silence among Chinese police officers and a "lenient attitude toward the use of excessive force".