Authorities in S China's Baise in hot water for suspicion of violating Chinese law on parading violators through streets
Published: Dec 30, 2021 01:43 AM
Photo: Screenshot of Zhengguan video

Photo: Screenshot of Zhengguan video

Authorities in the city of Baise, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, are in the middle of a controversy after they paraded four suspects of illegal human trafficking through the streets as a punishment for violating anti-epidemic rules. Some experts and netizens noted that this violated Chinese law and exposed problems in grassroots management although the penalty may help deter lawbreakers.

According to videos circulating on social media platforms on Wednesday, eight police officers escorted four suspects walking through a busy street in Jingxi, Baise, with a crowd surrounding them and watching.   

The eight police officers and four suspects all wore head-to-toe protective suits. Boards showing the suspects' photos and names hung on the suspects' chest and back. 

According to media reports, the four suspects helped others illegally cross Chinese borders while the country was under strict border management and required all international arrivals to quarantine amid the severe pandemic. Leading them through the street is a strategy by the local authorities to reveal the cases and warn the public.

The authorities also placed notices on the wall with the suspects' photos, names and other personal information. 

They told media that these measures are in accordance with local anti-epidemic regulations and are "not improper." 

Border areas in Guangxi have enhanced measures to avoid the spread of coronavirus, including encouraging residents to report information on illegal crossings, amid mounting epidemic control pressure in winter and sporadic outbreaks that were traced to imported sources. 

The issue soon became a hot topic on Chinese social media platforms. Related posts have received more than 350 million views and over 30,000 comments as of Wednesday night. 

Some netizens hailed and supported the move. They commented on the video that stowaways seriously damage the anti-epidemic efforts of Chinese authorities and the life of residents of the border city. They said they consider this to be "proper" and "necessary" considering the risk of importing virus.

Two suspects separately surnamed Bi and Huang in Jingxi were approved the arrest by the local procuratorate on Monday as they helped two foreigners illegally cross the Chinese border in October. One of the stowaways was found positive for the novel coronavirus, leading to about 50,000 residents in Jingxi being quarantined at home, which seriously affected the local economy and local people's livelihoods. 

However, some netizens pointed out that the measure is suspected of violating Chinese law. 

Experts also pointed out that, although it is understandable that the Baise authority was trying to prevent crimes with special measures during special period and solidate the hard-won achievement in fighting virus, it is clear that the behavior is suspected of violating the law and is improper. 

The Ministry of Public Security of China issued a notice in February last year, clearly requiring local authorities to properly implement laws and banning rude law enforcement. The notice came after many authorities across the country, especially those at the village level, were denounced for rude and excessive law enforcement on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, a village official in North China's Hebei Province was investigated in January, 2020, for tying a local resident to a tree for going out to buy cigarettes during the COVID-19 lockdown.

As to the punishment of parading suspects through the street, the Global Times found that the Supreme People's Court of China, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security have jointly released numerous notices since the 1980's to ban parading criminals or suspects through the streets to warn the public as this could cause a bad impact.  

A notice issued in June 1988, said that such measure should be rectified and related officials should be punished.   

However, according to media reports, Guangxi regional authority issued a notice on July 27, 2021 to crack down on illegal border crossings and smuggling amid tight anti-epidemic management. 

The notice listed ten punishments for illegal border crossing suspects, including releasing their information to the public, punishing them strictly according to the law and stopping their subsidies. 

At least three places in Guangxi, Jingxi, Daxin county and Napo county, have reportedly held activities to parade the suspects to the public since the notice was issued.

Zhu Wei, a profess or from the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Wednesday that some netizens think that this is effective to warn the public. However, the point is such punishment violates Chinese law and the principle of rule of law. 

It also insults the dignity of citizens, which is protected by the law, Zhu said.

If local authorities want to warn the public, they can punish violators sternly according to the law but the actions of the authorities in Baise are improper, Zhu noted. 

Releasing these suspects' personal information is also a violation of Chinese civil law to protect civilians' privacy, Zhu noted. 

The above-mentioned suspects Bi and Huang were punished by standing in front of the public on December 21, before the procuratorate approved their arrest, which experts said violated the procedural justice of law enforcement. 

Amid controversy, the authority in Jingxi, Baise told media that they had noticed the discussion on social media. The authorities in Napo and Daxin have not made any response so far.