Public Security Forces
In 1987 the Ministry of Public Security was the principal
police authority. The ministry had functional departments for areas
such as intelligence, police operations, prisons, and political,
economic, and communications security. Subordinate to the ministry
were provincial-level public security departments; public security
bureaus and subbureaus at the county level (the bureaus located in
the prefectures and large cities, the subbureaus in counties and
municipal districts); and public security stations at the township
fig. 22). While public security considerations had a
strong influence at all levels of administration, the police
appeared to wield progressively greater influence at the lower
levels of government.
The organization of local public security stations could be
inferred from the tasks with which the police were charged.
Generally, each station had sections for population control,
pretrial investigations, welfare, traffic control, a detention
center, and other activities.
In the 1980s the public security station--the police element in
closest contact with the people--was supervised by the public
security subbureau as well as by local governments and
procuratorates. The procuratorate could assume direct responsibility for handling any case it chose, and it supervised
investigations in those cases it allowed the public security
station to conduct. A great deal of coordination occurred among the
public security organs, the procuratorates, and the courts, so that
a trial was unlikely to produce a surprise outcome.
The public security station generally had considerably broader
responsibilities than a police station in the West, involving
itself in every aspect of the district people's lives. In a rural
area it had a chief, a deputy chief, a small administrative staff,
and a small police force. In an urban area it had a greater number
of administrative staff members and seven to eighteen patrolmen.
Its criminal law activities included investigation, apprehension,
interrogation, and temporary detention. The station's household
section maintained a registry of all persons living in the area.
Births, deaths, marriages, and divorces were recorded and confirmed
through random household checks. The station regulated all hotels
and required visitors who remained beyond a certain number of days
to register. All theaters, cinemas, radio equipment, and printing
presses also were registered with the local public security
station, permitting it to regulate gatherings and censor
information effectively. It also regulated the possession,
transportation, and use of all explosives, guns, ammunition, and
Another important police function was controlling change of
residence. Without such controls, large numbers of rural residents
undoubtedly would move to the overcrowded cities in search of
better living standards, work, or education
, ch. 2;
, ch. 3). In April 1984 the State Council issued the
Tentative Regulations Governing People's Republic of China Resident
Identity. The regulations, to be implemented over a period of
years, required all residents over sixteen years of age, except
active-duty members of the PLA and the People's Armed Police Force
and inmates serving sentences, to be issued resident identity cards
by the Ministry of Public Security. The picture cards indicated the
name, sex, nationality, date of birth, and address of the bearer.
Cards for persons sixteen to twenty-five years of age were valid
for ten years; those for persons between twenty-five and forty-five
were valid for twenty years; and persons over forty-five were
issued permanent cards. As of early 1987, only 70 million people
had been issued identity cards, well below the national goal. Also,
even those with resident identity cards preferred to use other
forms of identification.
In the 1980s secret police operations employed agents,
informers, and "roving spies." Police surveillance apparently was
restricted to probation and parole. Plainclothes agents were posted
at bus and railroad stations and other public places. Police informers denounced "bad elements" and assisted in surveillance of
suspected political criminals. Roving spies were a special category
of informant in the factories and work units and were ever watchful
for dissidence or sabotage. Youths aspiring to be Communist Youth
League members, or league members aspiring to be party members,
sometimes cooperated as informants and agents for the police.
Public security officials also made extensive use of the
authority granted them to impose administrative sanctions by two
sets of documents. These were the 1957 Regulations on Reeducation
Through Labor, which were reissued in 1979 with amendments, and the
1957 Regulations Governing Offenses Against Public Order, which
were rescinded and replaced in 1986 by regulations of the same
name. Offenders under the Regulations on Reeducation Through Labor
might include "vagabonds, people who have no proper occupation, and
people who repeatedly breach public order." The police could
apprehend such individuals and sentence them to reeducation through
labor with the approval of local labor-training administration
committees. The 1957 regulations placed no limit on the length of
sentences, but beginning in the early 1960s three or four years was
the norm. The 1979 amended regulations, however, limited the length
of reeducation through labor to three years with possible extension
for extraordinary cases. The Regulations Governing Offenses Against
Public Order empowered the police to admonish, fine, or detain
people for up to fifteen days. Goods illegally in the possession of
an offender were to be confiscated, and payment was imposed for
damages or hospital fees in the event injury had been caused.
The criminal laws in force after January 1, 1980, restricted
police powers regarding arrests, investigations, and searches. A
public security official or a citizen could apprehend a suspect
under emergency conditions, but a court or procuratorate was
required to approve the arrest. The accused had to be questioned
within twenty-four hours and his or her family or work unit
notified of the detention "except in circumstances where
notification would hinder the investigation or there was no way to
notify them." Any premeditated arrest required a court or
procuratorate warrant. The time that an accused could be held
pending investigation was limited to three to seven days, and
incarceration without due process was illegal.
Two officials were needed to conduct a criminal investigation.
They were required to show identification and, apparently, to
inform the accused of the crime allegedly committed before he or
she was questioned. The suspect could refuse to answer only those
questions irrelevant to the case. Torture was illegal.
The 1980 laws also provided that in conjunction with an arrest
the police could conduct an emergency search; otherwise, a warrant
was required. They had the right to search the person, property,
and residence of an accused and the person of any injured party.
They could intercept mail belonging to the accused and order an
autopsy whenever cause of death was unclear.
In July 1980 the government approved new regulations governing
police use of weapons and force. Police personnel could use their
batons only in self-defense or when necessary to subdue or prevent
the escape of violent criminals or rioters. Lethal weapons, such as
pistols, could be used if necessary to stop violent riots, to
lessen the overall loss of life, or to subdue surrounded but still
resisting criminals. The regulations even governed use of sirens,
police lights, and whistles.
The relationship between the police officers assigned to
neighborhood patrols and the people was close. Police officers
lived in a neighborhood on a long-term assignment and were expected
to know all the residents personally. Their task was not only to
prevent and punish crime but to promote desirable behavior by
counseling and acting as role models. This positive side of the
police officer's duties was a constant responsibility, but the bond
between the public security units and the people was strengthened
annually by means of "cherish-the-people" months, during which the
police officer made a special effort to be of help, especially to
the aged and the infirm.
Police were drawn from every segment of the population without
restriction as to sex or ethnic origin. Selection was based on
political loyalty, intelligence, and health, as it was for the PLA.
Most recruits had Communist Youth League backgrounds or were former
PLA personnel. There was at least one police school in every
provincial-level unit, and others were operated by municipalities.
Usually those police designated for leadership positions attended
the police schools, and patrolmen were trained at the unit and on
the job. Legal training was emphasized as a method of improving the
quality of the police forces. In 1985 three institutions of higher
learning for police personnel--the University of Public Security,
the University of Police Officers, and the Institute of Criminal
Police--offered more than twenty special courses. Students were
recruited from senior-middle-school graduates under twenty-two
years of age, with a waiver to twenty-five years of age for those
having a minimum of two years' experience in public security work.
Data as of July 1987