Four suspects with masks and protective suits, on which their photographs and names hung, had to parade in front of a large crowd in the city Jingxi on Tuesday, the state-run Guangxi News reported.

Photographs of the punishment show each suspect being held by two police officers wearing shields, masks and protective suits, surrounded by a circle of riot control officers, some of them armed.

All four were accused of transporting illegal migrants despite the fact that China’s borders are practically closed due to the pandemic, said this newspaper from the province of Guangxi (south).

China banned all kinds of public humiliation of suspected criminals in 2010 after decades of campaigning by human rights activists, but some local governments have revived these practices in the fight against covid.

The parade was part of a series of disciplinary measures announced in August by the Jingxi local government to punish those who break sanitary measures.

Guangxi News noted that the parade offered “a real warning” and “a deterrent from committing border crimes”.

But this punishment generated controversy, with criticism from official media and Internet users for this strategy.

Although Jingxi is “under tremendous pressure” to prevent the importation of cases of coronavirus, “the measure seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again”, the Beijing News, linked to the Communist Party, said on Wednesday.

Other suspected of illegal smuggling and human trafficking have suffered public humiliation in recent months, according to information on the Jingxi government website.

Videos from a similar parade in November showed crowds of people watching two detained prisoners as local policemen read their crimes with a microphone.

And in August, dozens of armed police were seen carrying a suspect through the streets to a playground.

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