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image of Frontiers of Law in China

Compared with conventional investigation methods, special investigative techniques are specific investigation measures that are conducted without informing the parties being investigated. Although these measures are effective means for fighting crimes, they can also easily violate human rights. Before the modification of the Criminal Procedure Law of China in 2012, only the State Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Police Law of the People’s Republic of China, and the departmental rules enacted by the Ministry of Public Security contained provisions on special investigative techniques. However, in practice, special investigative techniques have been widely employed to investigate hidden crimes or major complex crimes, such as crimes endangering state security, organized crimes, and drug-related crimes. To standardize the use of special investigative techniques, the Criminal Procedure Law of China has included a new paragraph about special investigative techniques, including technical investigation measures, hidden identity investigation, and controlled delivery. And the Procedure Rules for Public Security Organs Handling Criminal Cases (2012) and the Tentative Rules for Criminal Procedure of People’s Procuratorate (2012) provide some supplemental provisions. Although the importance of special investigative techniques stipulated in the Criminal Procedure Law should be affirmed and approved, the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law and the relevant interpretations are too simple and too principled, which will likely lead to the improper application or abuse of special investigative techniques. Rules regarding which types of cases and under which conditions special investigative techniques are appropriate, the necessary approval procedures, and the legal consequences and relief mechanisms for illegal special investigative techniques should be clarified or added to promote the legalization of special investigative techniques — by striking a balance between power authorization and power control as well as between the values of crime control and human rights protection.

Affiliations: 1: (廖明) Ph.D and Associate Professor in criminal procedure law, at College for Criminal Law Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875,


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