Police urged to protect offenders' privacy

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-27 07:22
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BEIJING - The Ministry of Public Security has urged local police to protect the privacy of suspected offenders after two widely publicized prostitution cases this month in which alleged prostitutes were paraded in public or had their personal information disclosed.

In a circular, sent by the ministry to police departments nationwide, local police have been called upon to enforce laws and regulations in a "civilized" way to "fairly respect and ensure human rights" while handling prostitution cases, Dahe Daily reported on Monday.

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The report said the provincial police department in Henan had forwarded the ministry's circular to its local bureaus, and made it clear that local police leaders will be held responsible for similar cases if they occur again in the future.

A source with the Ministry of Public Security confirmed the existence of this circular to China Daily, but declined to give further details.

Last October, police in Zhengzhou made public some prostitutes' nude pictures in a crackdown against pornography and gambling, which aroused public concerns over protection of law offenders rights.

These latest incidents took place amid an ongoing seven-month nationwide campaign against crime, again reflecting the conventional practices by local police to humiliate offenders to deter crime, law experts said.

On July 7, along the streets in the Chenjiawan community in Wuhan of Central China's Hubei province, the Hongshan police sub-bureau pasted notices about its recent successful raid of a massage parlor.

The notices revealed the detained prostitutes' and clients' personal information - including their names and ages, as well as addresses and punishments of the sex deals.

In another case, local media in Dongguan of South China's Guangdong province published pictures of two suspected prostitutes and two patrons who had been detained by police on July 3.

In the photos, the girls stood on their bare feet and were both handcuffed while walking in the street.

Each was bound with a long rope at the waist while a crowd looked on nearby in broad daylight.

Police said later they were just asking the girls to identify the scene.

Buying and selling sex is a crime that can be punished by up to 15 days in detention with a fine of up to 5,000 yuan ($737), in accordance with Chinese laws.

He Bin, the deputy dean of the China University of Political Science and Law, said it is improper under the best of circumstances for police to humiliate a person to change their behavior.

"If we must put someone on a street parade, it should be the ones who organize prostitution and officials protecting the business - not prostitutes who are normally forced to sell their bodies," said Wang Hao, 23, a Beijing student.

Mao Shoulong, a public policy professor at Renmin University of China, said exposing the offenders' identities and faces to the public was "more severe punishment than due".

"Publicizing detainees' identities (to suppress prostitution) only shows local police's inability to enforce laws," he said.