Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A656-W410

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A656-W410


Release Date: September 18, 2011



Topic: About "Residence under Surveillance" in China -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:再谈监视居住 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)



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About "Residence under Surveillance" in China

-- Wei Jingsheng



We say that "residence under surveillance" in China is illegal detention, or enforced disappearance according to the United Nations standard.  This assertion is aimed at the so-called laws that are designed to complete the lawlessness of the Communist regime, i.e. the upcoming revision of the Criminal Procedure Law to be submitted to the People's Congress in October.


What is the original meaning of "residence under surveillance"?  It was one of the lightest among various judicial measures which restricted personal freedom.   According to international practice and China's own provisions in the past, "residence under surveillance" was only the surveillance of suspects without imposed limits of the suspects' living and other activities.  So, it did not need a formal approval by the court or Procuratorate; the public security or the police could decide themselves.


Since the early eighties when the Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law were modified, all the dictatorial organs felt restricted -- it was not as convenient to arrest people.  This inconvenience for the government to arrest people in fact ensures that people's freedoms are protected.  The biggest threat to people's freedom and power came from the governments.  To limit its own power is the required homework for all governments.  Even in a slave system, there are laws to protect slaves.  Otherwise, people would not manage to live.


Since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the Chinese Communist Party felt that too much freedom had been given to the people and it was becoming difficult to manage them.  The public security organs could not arrest people as they wished.  At the most, they could only display their "residence under surveillance" permit.  They had to get the approval of the courts and Procuratorate to arrest people, which was not very convenient.  Sometimes, the courts and Procuratorate would not necessarily cooperate with the public security organs' abusive actions.  This separation of powers limited police abuse, as well as limited the unreasonable dictatorship of the Communist Party.  Such was the motive for the Communist Party to seek a more convenient way.


This convenient method for arresting people became "residence under surveillance".  Simply playing with these two concepts of "residence" and "surveillance", the regime was able to turn a law with the least restriction of personal freedom into a law for kidnapping hostages without any legal supervision.  To formally arrest someone requires by law the notification of the family and access to lawyers, etc.   However, with the new law of hostage kidnapping, they could quietly lock up people in a place arranged by the police, without any others knowing.  Is not that outright kidnapping?


Whether it is in accordance with the laws of past or present, the terms of arrest are that the arrested person shall not disappear, and family members or a lawyer must know where this person is.  Regardless whether the person is a suspect or criminal, the person is still protected by law and allowed to live in society even if in prison.  According to the revision of the law that has been announced now, a person will be completely disappeared after the person is put under "residence under surveillance" and there will be no way to monitor if the police are treating the person humanely.  That is to say this person will be detained illegally, or kidnapped.  This kidnapping is to be approved by law; this illegal detention is to be approved by law; and this complete lawlessness is to be approved by law.  This kind of modification of the law is the degradation of the legal system toward a complete lawlessness.


After all, the degradation has not just begun now.  Since the implement of the new law on January 1, 1980, the dictatorship has been nibbling at the legal system, step by step.  The formulation of the new Criminal Law of 1980 was exactly the result of the lawless suffering of both average people and Communist officials during the Cultural Revolution.  This suffering made them all deeply feel that the rebuilt the legal system is the essential conditions for people's survival.  In particular, some senior Communist cadres were put in jail by their own law of lawlessness during the Cultural Revolution.  While in jail, they also suffered from the persecution of their own law which did not safe guard human rights.  These personal experiences enabled them to join ranks with determination to rebuild a new rule of law.


However, Deng Xiaoping soon discovered that the rule of law was in fundamental conflict with the one-party dictatorship he adhered to.  If people are protected by the law, then the police and agents are not able to arrest people as they wish.  A dictatorship needs to be able to arrest people at the will of the dictatorial authority.  Otherwise, it will not produce widespread fear.  If it cannot achieve the result of killing the chickens to threaten the monkeys, if it cannot control the people at its will, then the Communist regime will not be able to implement its politics of the minority oppressing and exploiting the majority.  When the legal system becomes a shield to protect people and an umbrella to limit the dictatorship, it becomes the antithesis of one-party dictatorship.


Like all the Communist Parties, Deng Xiaoping liked to do things in the name of good, which was beneficial in deceiving the world.  However, shall this "good" become the reality; then it would be in violation of the basic principles of their dictatorial autocracy.  Deng needed to seek a way to break the law yet do it in the name of the law, thus to accomplish the goal of the Communist Party.  Thus, shortly after Deng Xiaoping's faction stabilized its power, it initiated a so-called "Strike Hard" measure as a law outside of the legal system.


What does "Strike Hard" mean?  To many Chinese, it was to severely crack down on criminals; a good matter which benefits both the people and the country.  It was like the recent "sing praises for the red and hit the black society" in Chongqing, which gives a first impression of protecting people and could win claps and cheers from the people.  Yet in reality it was used for the purpose of undermining the legal system, to remove the legal umbrella at the root. 


The bigwigs of power do not feel how important the protection of the law is.  Most average Chinese do not know about such a complicated thing, and thus do not think how important the protection of the law is either.  Usually, most people tend to look at the issue optimistically when they are not persecuted.  Generally, people feel it is OK to treat thieves and hooligans a little hard, even beyond the legal limit.  Is it not to everyone's benefit to eliminate the thieves and hooligans?  The result of this type of mentality is that the dictators took advantage of the loophole.


Law is binding to all members of society.  If we accept lawlessness against the thieves and hooligans, then it will be lawless to all.  When the thieves and hooligans lose their protection under the law, everyone else also theoretically loses his/her protection under the law.  When the law enforcement agencies can go beyond the law, the security of all is threatened.  But before the threat arrives, most people are not aware of the problem.


Before the Cultural Revolution, various officials of the Communist Party continuously went beyond law to punish the others.  People also ignored the law and were in support of this growing lawlessness which went beyond the law.  However, when the lawlessness reached a certain degree, it started to threaten the personal security of the average person and the officials.  Under the slogan of "the law is not a shield", everyone suffered the pain of lawlessness.  During the Cultural Revolution, the officials who were persecuting others only yesterday became victims themselves today.


This history from not too long ago teaches us the lesson that the law must be valid for all.  To legitimize lawlessness will not just make the ordinary people victims.  The people who helped to enact Draconian laws will become victims themselves.



To hear Mr. Wei Jingsheng's related commentary, please visit:



(Written and recorded on September 9, 2011.  Broadcasted by Radio Free Asia.)



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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A656-W410

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A656-W410


Release Date: September 18, 2011



Topic: About "Residence under Surveillance" in China -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:再谈监视居住 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)









-- 魏京生










































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