Armed riot police in southern China paraded four accused COVID-19 rule offenders through the streets on Wednesday, prompting criticism of the government’s heavy-handed attitude.
After decades of advocacy by human rights advocates, China prohibited such public shaming of criminal suspects in 2010, but the practice has revived as local administrations struggle to implement the national zero-COVID policy.
Four masked suspects in hazmat suits, carrying banners with their photographs and names, were paraded in front of a big audience in Guangxi region’s Jingxi city on Tuesday, according to state-run Guangxi News.
Photos from the scene showed each suspect being detained by two police officers, who were wearing face shields, masks, and hazmat suits, and being encircled by a circle of police in riot gear, some of whom were armed.
According to the publication, the four were accused of conveying illegal migrants while China’s borders remain mostly blocked due to the epidemic.
Jingxi is located near the Chinese-Vietnamese border.
The public humiliation was one of several disciplinary procedures outlined by the local administration in August to penalize anyone who violated health regulations.
According to Guangxi News, the march served as a “real-life warning” to the people and “deterred border-related crimes.”
However, it sparked a reaction, with official sources and social media users condemning the heavy-handed tactics.
Although Jingxi is “under immense pressure” to avoid imported coronavirus infections, “the action significantly breaches the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be repeated,” the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Beijing News said on Wednesday.
According to reports on the Jingxi government website, other suspects suspected of illegal smuggling and human trafficking have also been displayed in recent months.
A gathering of people saw two inmates being detained as a local official read out their offenses on a microphone in a similar march in November.
They were afterwards spotted walking through the streets in their hazmat suits, backed by riot police.
In August, hundreds of armed police officers were observed carrying a suspect through the streets to a playground for children.