BEIJING — A Chinese anti-graft official on Tuesday said a new regulation allowing the detention of corruption suspects for up to six months without charge is "based on rule of law."
The rights of those placed in such custody would be ensured, along with their living conditions and medical care, the head of the city of Beijing's anti-corruption watchdog body, Zhang Shuofu, told reporters during a visit to his offices in the capital's southwest.
Detention is "an important measure for combating corruption by thinking and using means based on the rule of law," Zhang said.
"We are very cautious about taking this measure, and the approval process is very strict," he said.
The measure, referred to simply as "detention," was introduced last year to replace earlier powers wielded by Communist Party investigators that were seen as unregulated and prone to abuse. The earlier measure, known as "shuangguai," was blamed for facilitating torture and abuse over long periods of time in secret locations to force confessions.
Zhang said detention for a period of three months could be ordered in cases where investigators fear a suspect could flee, commit suicide, collude with others, or falsify, destroy or conceal evidence. That could be extended just once for another three months, he said.
Zhang did not say where suspects would be held, who would oversee their care or what would happen after the maximum period of detention had been reached without an outcome.
However, in an indication of the frequency of the measure's use, he said out of 89 cases referred by his office to prosecutors last year, 68 had spent some time in detention.
In China, party members suspected of corruption are first investigated by the dreaded Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has broad powers to restrict their movements and compel testimony.
President and party leader Xi Jinping has made cracking down on corruption a hallmark of his first five years in power, opening investigations into millions of officials nationwide.
Last year, the city of Beijing piloted a program integrating the party commission with a separate one overseeing the civil service, vastly increasing its resources and quadrupling the number of party members and civil servants under its purview to almost 1 million.