China bans "shame parades" of criminal suspects

BEIJING Tue Jul 27, 2010 7:06am BST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will end the public shaming of criminal suspects by parading them through the streets, the People's Daily reported on Tuesday, after online commentators championed the case of a prostitute.

A spokesperson at the Public Security Bureau in central Henan province confirmed the ban on the practice long used by local law enforcement officials.

Although the ban is meant to apply to all suspects, the "shame parades" have most often been used in periodic government crackdowns on prostitution.

Online activists launched a campaign to halt the marches this month after a suspected prostitute was pictured barefoot, handcuffed and led about by a rope in a street in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province.

Netizens expressed outrage at a "humiliating" act and urged sympathy towards sex workers, according to Mop.com, a popular online forum.

"They would not become prostitutes if they did not have to support their younger siblings to finish school back in their home village," said a commentator identified only as "388943."

"I know sex workers who donated hundreds of yuan to the (2008) Sichuan earthquake. They are also human beings. Where is the respect? What about human rights?" another post said.

There are no official statistics for sex workers, but a World Health Organisation study estimated the number at four million.

Prostitution is banned and a taboo topic that generates scant coverage in the state media, except for annual crackdowns.

Four years ago, some 100 prostitutes were forced to march in front of a jeering crowd in Shenzhen, a boomtown in Guangdong province. The march was broadcast on television to publicise the government's efforts to combat the rising sex trade.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ken Wills and Ron Popeski)

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