Controversial clauses that permit detention, arrest or surveillance of suspects at specific places, without informing their families, have been partially revised in response to an outcry to curb possible abuses of public security measures, as the latest amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law is tabled for lawmakers to read.
Clauses in the previous draft amendment to the law, which permit police to arrest suspects or hold them at a specific place under surveillance without telling their families, have been removed from the latest version delivered to the National People's Congress for a third review on Thursday.
The proposal requires public security to inform the suspect's family within 24 hours after arrest and surveillance, Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told members of the top legislature.
As for detention, the proposal still permits the police not to inform the family "if the case is related to state security or terrorism, and if telling families would impede the investigation", Wang said.
The changes are made to ensure the rights of suspects, he said.
Thursday's proposal is also significant for "respecting and safeguarding human rights" as an essential principle in the proposed code. This is the first time this has been stated since the code was introduced in 1979.
Wang Liming, professor at Renmin University of China, said the law as it stands should fully embody the principle of human rights, as it is a principle stipulated in China's Constitution.
Prior to this, the National People's Congress Standing Committee had already reviewed stipulations in August and December, and had included major refinements such as the prohibition of forced confession under torture.
Dai Yuzhong, a member of the inspection committee under the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said in the new draft amendment that the modifications of evidence, defense, enforcement measures, investigation, as well as trial systems, all, to some extent, embody the protection of human rights.
Dai acknowledged that sometimes the police use torture to force suspects to make confessions.
The draft amendment has made clear that confessions extorted through illegal means, such as torture, should be excluded from evidence during trial.
Zhao Zuohai, a farmer from Central China's Henan province, was released after serving 10 years in prison in 2010 when the "victim" he was found guilty of murdering was found to be alive.
Zhao told the media he confessed due to torture during interrogation. He later received about 650,000 yuan ($102,960) in compensation, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The latest draft amendment requires police and judicial authorities to improve law enforcement and protect the legal and other legitimate rights of involved parties, Dai said.
The amendment also clarifies detailed procedures for the review of death penalties. All death sentences must get final approval from the top court before being carried out.
"The draft stipulates that if the top court rejects the death penalty, the case will be sent back to the local high court for retrial, which helps protect the suspect's legal rights and also reduces litigation costs," he said.
"Meanwhile, during the review period, the top court can call the suspect and listen to their lawyer's defense before making a final judgment, which could effectively limit the number of death penalty cases, and improve the quality of trials involving death sentences."
While acknowledging the progress of the draft amendment, experts said they hoped that one possible step might see a reduction in the length of detention.
"I hope that the period could be reduced and judicial review by judges could be introduced in the early stages to ensure suspects are being brought to court 'as soon as possible', either to stand trial or be released," Wang Minyuan, a criminal procedure law professor with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.