Authoritarian regimes shroud their darkest features in euphemism. So it is with China’s “residential surveillance at a designated location.” It sounds like a kind of house arrest, a milder form of detention for those under investigation, perhaps, or awaiting trial. It is not.
It is in fact the codification in law of a widespread practice of whisking people into secret detention — “disappearing” them into a labyrinth where China’s stunted legal protections can do little to prevent abuse. The practice violates not only human rights but also international law, according to Michael Caster of Safeguard Defenders, a group founded in August to protect those in Asia who fight for human rights, women’s rights and civil society.
Article 73 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law was amended in 2012 to allow the authorities to detain people for reasons of “state security” or “terrorism.” Detainees can be held for as long as six months in “designated locations” — secret prisons.
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