In March 2018, China’s National Supervision Law (NSL) introduced the Liuzhi detention system, which is a de facto system of enforced and involuntary disappearances. According to safeguard Defenders, “ Liuzhi or ‘retention in custody’ is not part of China’s criminal justice system. Instead, it is run by a non-judicial, non-law enforcement body: the National Supervision Commission (NSC). Founded in 2018, the NSC can place anyone related to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the State, as well as those working for or loosely related to State-owned enterprises or public institutions – such as hospitals, schools, etc. into Liuzhi. It is in reality a private police force run by the CCP, with its own private, secret, detention facilities.” Victims of the Liuzhi system have to endure a number of things including not having access to legal counsel; being kept incommunicado at unknown locations; and being held for up to six months.
Safeguard Defenders reports that the latest victim of the Liuzhi system is Bao Fan, one of China’s top bankers and founder of China Renaissance Holdings, who disappeared from public view and was reported missing on February 16. 11 days later, his company issued a terse statement that he was cooperating with authorities in an unspecified investigation.
“Bao Fan follows in the footsteps of actress Fan Bingbing, tycoon Xiao Jianhua, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, but also a string of other business elites, such as Yim Fung and Mao Xiaofeng, who have gone missing while under some form of investigation, something which has also happened to the likes of former INTERPOL chairman Meng Hongwei and Supreme Court judge Wang Linqing,” says safeguard Defenders.
Unlike the RSDL system, run by the police, and often used to target human rights defenders, the Liuzhi system, which is nearly identical in nature, rarely gets mentioned. One reason is that the system is new, and came into effect only in March 2018, with the launch of the new super-body the National Supervision Commission (NSC), but also because its victims, most often Party members, State functionaries, or those accused of economic crimes related to the State, are not particularly sympathetic victims. However, the sheer scope of its use, which by our estimate now surpasses RSDL use, and the near unlimited power of the NSC using Liuzhi, and the fact that it does not, in any way, constitute a judicial proceeding at all, should lead to proper scrutiny.”
According to Safeguard Defenders, the cumulative estimate of the number of people placed into the Liuzhi system from 2018 to the end of 2021 is 57,201 and the organization feels this total is a “significant underestimation”.