Wed, Feb 27, 2008 - Page 1 News List

China moves to rein in private security goon squads

AFP AND NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BEIJING AND SHANGHAI

China is striving to rein in violent security guards with new rules that will prevent them from beating up people or otherwise abuse their positions, state media said yesterday.

The State Council has published draft rules aiming to impose curbs on the tens of thousands of security guards who protect government offices, schools, factories and businesses across China, Xinhua news agency said.

The new rules come in the wake of an incident last month where government-hired guards in Hubei Province bludgeoned to death a man who had videotaped them while they beating up a group of protesters.

The incident caused a nationwide uproar against security guards and led to an investigation into more than 100 city inspectors in Tianmen City.

The draft rules explicitly forbid security guards from restricting the personal freedom of any individual and searching their persons, the report said. Security guards are banned from "insult, assault, battery or inducing others to commit battery," as well as withholding individual property or identification.

Guards will also no longer be allowed to use violence or threaten to use violence to demand payment, infringe personal privacy or leak secrets, it said.

In Shanghai, meanwhile, human-rights lawyer Zheng Enchong (鄭恩寵) was repeatedly beaten by police officers outside his home in recent days, his wife and associates said.

Zheng, who has lived under house arrest for several months, has sustained serious injuries caused by plainclothes police officers who, in one attack, knocked him down, then repeatedly hoisted his body parallel to the ground and dropped him on the concrete, people who have visited him said.

In a telephone interview, Jiang Meili (蔣美麗) described another beating, which she said took place as her husband tried to leave his house for church.

"A guy stopped him and pushed him to the ground," Jiang said. "One man held him by the neck, while another kneed him in the stomach. Then five or six men carried him back upstairs, beating him in the elevator, too."

Shanghai police officials declined to comment.

Jiang said that the beatings represented a sharp escalation of a recent campaign by the Shanghai authorities to quiet her husband.

Associates of the lawyer who have spoken with him said the beatings started after he began advising residents who have organized a campaign against a high-tech railroad project that would cut through middle-class neighborhoods in the city.

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