CHINA has abandoned controversial plans to make it legal to "disappear" people without trace, in a move hailed as a victory for judicial reformers.
A list of proposed amendments to China's existing criminal law, being debated this week by the National People's Congress, or parliament, originally included a clause that would legalise secret detentions.
Under the proposed revisions, authorities must notify families of people held under residential surveillance, a sort of house arrest, within 24 hours except when the families cannot be reached.
In the case of regular criminal detention, families must also be notified — unless the cases involve the crimes of endangering national security or terrorism and authorities believe notifying the family would impede the investigation. Many dissidents are accused of threatening security, so the exception could still allow police to continue secret detentions.
The revisions are stricter than proposed changes announced in August that drew heated criticisms from the legal community and prompted tens of thousands of people to list their complaints online.
At issue were two provisions, one dealing with a type of house arrest and the other with detention in jails. The house arrest proposal still allows suspects in national security, terrorism and major corruption cases to be detained outside their homes, a loophole that currently is often used to hold dissidents in undisclosed locations.
Welcome revisions also include the requirement of judicial supervision of compulsory psychiatric treatment for criminal suspects, the introduction of pretrial hearings and plea bargaining, and the exclusion of evidence obtained by illegal means.
Can the new revisions really prevent secret detentions in China?.