Archive for ‘Justice’

05/09/2014

Chinese woman wrongfully jailed for theft given apology and payout 25 years after | South China Morning Post

Twenty-five years after she was locked up behind bars, a Guangdong woman on Thursday received more than 650,000 yuan (HK$818,000) in compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned – in the latest case of corrective measures for miscarried justice in China.

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Bai Chunrong was sentenced to eight years in prison for theft on July 28, 1989, and served time until she was released in 1996, the Guangdong province newspaper New Express reported.

Bai filed an appeal in March 1990 but the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court upheld the conviction. There were no further details about her crime given in the court announcement.

The same court reopened the case in late March and the judge declared her innocent on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Bai received the compensation from the Foshan court judge, who apologised to Bai for the wrongful conviction.

Bai, crying while kneeling on the floor and kowtowing to the magistrate, said: “I really thank the current court and judge for helping me get vindicated.”

Last month, in a rare acquittal, a court in southeastern Fujian province overturned the death penalty against a food hawker convicted of double murder.

via Chinese woman wrongfully jailed for theft given apology and payout 25 years after | South China Morning Post.

15/08/2014

Rule of law: Realigning justice in China | The Economist

IN JULY Zhou Qiang, the president of China’s Supreme People’s Court, visited Yan’an, the spiritual home of the Communist Party in rural Shaanxi province, to lead local court officials there in an old communist ritual: self-criticism. “I have grown accustomed to having the final say and often have preconceived ideas when making decisions,” one local judge told the meeting. “I try to avoid taking a stand in major cases,” said a judicial colleague. “I don’t want to get into trouble.”

In China’s judiciary such shortcomings are the norm. But change may be coming. On July 29th it was announced that the party’s Central Committee, comprising more than 370 leaders, will gather in October to discuss ways of strengthening the rule of law, a novelty for such a gathering. President Xi Jinping, who is waging a sweeping campaign against corruption, says he wants the courts to help him “lock power in a cage”. Officials have begun to recognise that this will mean changing the kind of habits that prevail in Yan’an and throughout the judicial system.

Long before Mr Xi, leaders had often talked about the importance of the rule of law. But they showed little enthusiasm for reforms that would take judicial authority away from party officials and give it to judges. The court system in China is often just a rubber-stamp for decisions made in secret by party committees in cahoots with police and prosecutors. The party still cannot abide the idea of letting a freely elected legislature write the laws, nor even of relinquishing its control over the appointment of judges. But it is talking up the idea of making the judiciary serve as the constitution says it should: “independently … and not subject to interference”.

In June state media revealed that six provincial-level jurisdictions would become testing grounds for reforms. Full details have not been announced, but they appear aimed at allowing judges to decide more for themselves, at least in cases that are not politically sensitive.

There is a lot of room for improvement. Judges are generally beholden to local interests. They are hired and promoted at the will of their jurisdiction’s party secretary (or people who report to him), and they usually spend their entire careers at the same court in which they started. They have less power in their localities than do the police or prosecutors, or even politically connected local businessmen. A judge is often one of the least powerful figures in his own courtroom.

“It’s not a career that gets much respect,” says Ms Sun, a former judge in Shanghai who quit her job this year (and who asked to be identified only by her surname). The port city is one of the reform test-beds. “Courts are not independent so as a result they don’t have credibility, and people don’t believe in the law.” She says people often assume judges are corrupt.

Career prospects are unappealing for the young and well-educated like Ms Sun, who got her law degree from Peking University. The overall quality of judges has risen dramatically in recent decades, but there are still plenty of older, senior judges with next to no formal legal training. Seeing no opportunity for advancement after eight years, Ms Sun left for a law firm and a big multiple of her judge’s salary of about 120,000 yuan ($19,000) a year. She says many other young judges are leaving.

It is unclear how much the mooted changes will alleviate these concerns. Those Shanghai courts that are participating in the pilot reforms (not all are) are expected to raise judges’ pay. They are also expected greatly to reduce the number of judges, though younger ones fear they are more likely to be culled than their less qualified but better connected seniors.

The most important reforms will affect the bureaucracies that control how judges are hired and promoted. Responsibility will be taken away from the cities and counties where judges try their cases, or from the districts in the case of provincial-level megacities like Shanghai. It will be shifted upwards to provincial-level authorities—in theory making it more difficult for local officials to persuade or order judges to see things their way on illegal land seizures, polluting factories and so on.

Central leaders have a keen interest in stamping out such behaviour because it tarnishes the party’s image. But many local officials, some of whom make a lot of money from land-grabs and dirty factories, will resist change. With the help of the police they will probably find other means to make life difficult for unco-operative judges. And provincial authorities are still likely to interfere in some cases handled by lower-level courts, sometimes in order to help out county-level officials.

via Rule of law: Realigning justice | The Economist.

16/06/2014

China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters

Legal reforms are a key platform for President Xi Jinping‘s government to restore popular faith in the Party and judicial system amid simmering public discontent over miscarriages of justice often caused by officialsabuse of power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony of the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

China must “improve the requirements for appointing justices and prosecutors while upholding the principles of leading party officials and respecting the rule of justice”, an unnamed official in the top office in charge of judicial reforms told the official Xinhua news agency.

It did not say when the pilot programs would be launched.

To limit interference by local governments, provincial governments will pick judges and prosecutors and fix the budgets of local courts and procuratorates, Xinhua reported. The system currently gives local governments greater sway in appointments.

Panels of legal specialists at the provincial level will nominate judges and prosecutors, but the Party must still approve their appointments.

The reforms must “uphold the Party’s leadership,” the official said, signaling a willingness by the central leadership to improve its courts as long as the Party’s overall control is not threatened.

Critics have described the leadership’s call for greater independence for courts as a hollow gesture, because judges ultimately answer to the Party.

via China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters.

13/06/2014

China’s Supreme Court overturns death sentences for two men who raped 11-year-old girl | South China Morning Post

The Supreme People’s Court has overturned the death sentences given to two men convicted of raping and forcing an 11-year-old girl to work in a brothel.

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The court said the high-profile case, which has received national media attention, would be retried.

Tang Hui, the victim’s mother, has campaigned for years believing death sentences should be handed out to all people who were guilty in her daughter’s case.

She has also petitioned local governments to punish officials who she said had been bribed by prostitution gangs to protect their operations.

“The ruling has dealt a heavy blow to us,” Tang told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

“My family just tries to live a normal life. As the case reopens, we’ll experience all the nightmares again. I’m especially worried about my daughter.”

Tang’s daughter has contracted herpes, an incurable sexually transmitted disease, and psychological trauma after she was raped and forced to work as a prostitute at the age 11 for two months in a brothel in Yongzhou in Hunan province in 2006.

Her daughter’s two main kidnappers were sentenced to death in June 2012, four accomplices received life sentences and one was jailed for 15 years.

A representative from the Supreme People’s Court said in an interview with the People’s Daily that the death sentences had been overturned because the crimes were not serious enough to warrant capital punishment.

“The circumstances of the crime had not reached the degree of being extremely serious,” the spokesman said.

Forcing a large number of victims into prostitution, or performing torture on victims that resulted in death or permanent injury might have warranted the death sentence, the official added.

Lu Miaoqing , a lawyer in Guangzhou, said the Supreme People’s Court ruling was understandable as judges tended to avoid capital punishment unless a crime had caused deaths.

via China’s Supreme Court overturns death sentences for two men who raped 11-year-old girl | South China Morning Post.

09/03/2014

* With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters

China has curtailed the power of the ruling Communist Party’s Political and Legal Committee, a secretive body overseeing the security services, to interfere in most legal cases, scholars with knowledge of the situation said – a significant reform at a time of public discontent over miscarriages of justice.

Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, attends National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

The move, which has not been made public by the party but has been announced in internal meetings, would clip the wings of the party’s highest authority on judicial and security matters.

Interference from the committee has led to many wrongful convictions, many of which have been widely reported in the press and even highlighted by President Xi Jinping as an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

Part of a package of legal reforms, the move signals a willingness by Xi’s government to reform its court system as long as it doesn’t threaten the party’s overall control.

China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court, will delivers its work report to parliament on Monday, which could detail some of these reforms.

But the party would still have final say over politically sensitive cases such as those involving ethnic issues and senior politicians – like the disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, who was last year found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power, and jailed for life – and would use the courts to convict citizens who challenge its authority.

via With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters.

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13/12/2013

Nanjing Massacre memorials to be held |Society |chinadaily.com.cn

A man is pictured in front of a wall at the memorial hall of the victims in Nanjing massacre by Japanese invaders in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Dec 12, 2013. Nanjing Massacre memorials to be held

NANJING – A series of memorials will be held on Thursday and Friday in the city of Nanjing to mark the 76th anniversary of a massacre that claimed the lives of 300,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers.

Nanjing witnessed mass murder, genocide and war rape following the Japanese capture of the city in December 13, 1937, during World War II.

Memorial events will include a candlelight vigil, a prayer assembly for peace, as well as press conferences and seminars, according to Zhu Chengshan, curator of the Nanjing Massacre Hall.

As part of this year\’s event, a report on protection of survivors\’ oral histories of the atrocity will be presented and a Sino-U.S. collaborative project on oral history studies will be announced, Zhu announced.

\”This is about expressing sorrow for those perished, and more importantly reminding people to remember history and to cherish peace,\” he said.

Meanwhile, two survivors, 82-year-old Wang Jin and 89-year-old Cen Honggui, will leave for Japan to attend Nanjing Massacre testimony gatherings on invitation from Japanese non-governmental organizations.

Held every year since August, 1994, this activity has seen a total of 47 Chine

via Nanjing Massacre memorials to be held |Society |chinadaily.com.cn.

11/09/2013

Guangzhou to empty labour camps

SCMP: “Guangzhou plans to empty its hard-labour camps by year’s end, state media reported yesterday, the latest locality to phase out the notorious punishment.

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Rights advocates have long complained that the “re-education through labour“, or laojiao, system which lets police send suspects to work camps for up to four years without trial, is widely abused to silence dissidents, petitioners and other perceived troublemakers.

In March, newly installed Premier Li Keqiang promised nationwide reforms to the system this year, but concrete steps have yet to be announced. In the meantime, some cities or provinces have been moving away from the punishment.

“All [100 or so] detainees in Guangzhou labour camps will have completed their sentences and be released by the end of the year,” the China Daily reported, citing a senior judge in the city. Guangdong province stopped taking new re-education through labour cases in March, it said.

In February, Yunnan said it would no longer send people to labour camps for three types of political offences.

Four cities designated as testing grounds have replaced the system with an “illegal behaviour rectification through education” programme, domestic media said at the time.

The forced labour system was established under Mao Zedong in the 1950s as a way to contain “class enemies”. A 2009 UN report estimated that 190,000 mainlanders were locked up labour camps.

Calls to scrap the system grew last year after the media exposed the plight of Ren Jianyu , a former official who spent 15 months in a Chongqing labour camp for reposting criticisms of the government on his microblog.”

via Guangzhou to empty labour camps: state media | South China Morning Post.

See also: http://chindia-alert.org/2013/01/07/china-turns-dark-page-of-history-puts-end-to-labour-camps/

29/08/2013

Bo Xilai on trial: Settling scores

The Economist: “IN A heavily guarded courthouse in the eastern city of Jinan, the trial began on August 22nd of a politician who was once one of China’s most powerful figures. Bo Xilai, who is 64, has been accused of receiving bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power. His downfall in March 2012 caused the greatest political shock of its kind in decades.

That the trial is under way at last is a sign that Xi Jinping, who took over as China’s leader eight months after Mr Bo disappeared from public view, is confident that he can handle its ramifications. Mr Bo, like Mr Xi, is the son of one of Mao Zedong’s fellow revolutionaries. He remains popular in the parts of China where he has served, including as Communist Party chief in the 29m-strong region of Chongqing in the south-west. He is an icon of diehard Maoists and members of the “new left” who decry China’s move towards money making. Handling Mr Bo’s case without upsetting powerful families and arousing public ire (whether of Mr Bo’s fans or of the many Chinese who are aggrieved at widespread official corruption) has been Mr Xi’s challenge. As the trial began, dozens of supporters gathered nearby. Police dragged several away.

Mr Xi and his colleagues wished to choreograph the proceedings—which at the time of going to press were expected to last just a day or two—with great precision. But Mr Bo, with a characteristic feistiness, queered the pitch from the outset. He denied a charge of bribery involving payments of more than 1.1m yuan ($180,000) from a businessman in the north-eastern city of Dalian. His response to the other charges, including millions of dollars in other kickbacks, are not yet known. Foreign journalists were barred from the trial.

The allegations, even if disagreeable to Mr Bo, would have been tailored to suit all factions—including, to some extent, his own, for Mr Bo had powerful backers, including within the security forces. Speculation has also centred on whether the state tried to secure Mr Bo’s co-operation by promising not to go after his 25-year-old son, Bo Guagua, who was expensively educated in Britain and is now studying in America. The younger Mr Bo may hope one day to to avenge his father’s downfall.

via Bo Xilai on trial: Settling scores | The Economist.

23/08/2013

In Bo Xilai Trial, Some See Positive Signs for Legal System

WSJ: “Many China watchers see the trial of Communist Party insider Bo Xilai as scripted and staged, unveiling flaws of a closed Chinese judicial system. Yet amid the criticism, some are seeing positive signs emerge from Jinan, the northeastern Chinese city in Shandong province where Mr. Bo is facing corruption charges, including allegations that he took bribes with the aid of his wife.

The following are opinions of legal experts who have been following the trial:

Many Western critics of the Bo trial are comparing it to the stage-managed show trials of China’s past, including Jiang Qing [the wife of Mao Zedong] and victims of the Cultural Revolution. But this criticism misses the point. The Bo trial is exactly 180 degrees different in nature. In the show trials of China’s past, the politics would drive the criminal prosecution. In other words, the target would fall out of favor politically and then be legally persecuted as a result. In this trial, we have the opposite: the criminal prosecution is driving the politics. A towering and influential figure is being prosecuted in spite of his political influence, and the trial is driven primarily by the criminal allegations against him. Instead of being accused of serious crimes because his political standing has collapsed, his political standing has collapsed because he has been accused of serious crimes. –Geoffrey Sant, adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and special counsel at Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Despite the degree of supervision provided for the trial, there are nevertheless grounds for opening up the administration of justice to the supervision of the people. We’ve seen that in China there are many cases and trials that are not open, that attendance is constrained. Yet leaders have shown that they are willing to open up this case—to a certain extent—to the media, creating the perception that they are moving toward creating a more accessible judicial system.

Leaders are going farther than they could have to make the trial available. It’s a show trial, but not all trials are for show in China. To the extent that openness reveals shortcomings of the judicial system and promotes civil liberties is a positive thing. –Lester Ross a Beijing-based attorney with U.S. law firm WilmerHale.”

via In Bo Xilai Trial, Some See Positive Signs for Legal System – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

20/07/2013

China officials held over watermelon-seller death

BBC : “Six urban security personnel have been detained by police investigating the death of a fruit seller in southern China, state media say.

Local residents demonstrate with a banner saying "urban enforcers (chengguan) killed people" in Linwu county, central China's Hunan province, 17 July 2013

Deng Zhengjia, in his 50s, died on Wednesday in Chenzhou City, Hunan.

He was hit with a weight from a set of scales after a row erupted with the officials, known as “chengguan”, Xinhua reported, citing Mr Deng’s niece.

The six are being held on suspicion of intentionally harming others, added the news agency.

 

The row in Linwu county, Chenzhou, erupted after Mr Deng, 56, and his wife tried to sell home-grown watermelons at a scenic riverside spot without a licence, the county government said in a statement.

Having asked the couple to leave, “the enforcers temporarily confiscated four of the watermelons, requesting that the couple sell their melons in an authorised location instead”.

The couple began “insulting” the officers when they encountered them again 50 minutes later, the statement said.

“The enforcers tried to reason with the couple, the dispute between the two sides became a physical conflict, and in the process Deng Zhengjia suddenly collapsed and died,” it added.

There were anti-chengguan protests in Linwu on Wednesday, and the fruit seller’s death has also sparked outrage on China’s microblogs.

In July 2011, the death of a disabled street vendor who was reportedly beaten by local law enforcers sparked a riot in Guizhou province.

Who are the chengguan?

Urban law enforcers tasked with enforcing ”non-criminal administrative regulations” such as traffic, environment and sanitation rules

Chengguan operate separately from the police

They are employed by the Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureaux of their individual cities

Critics call them “violent government thugs”

Reports that a disabled street vendor was beaten to death by chengguan in 2011 sparked riots in China’s Guizhou province

There are thousands of chengguan in at least 656 cities across China, Human Rights Watch says

The chengguan, or Urban Management Law Enforcement force, support the police in tackling low-level crime in cities and have become unpopular with the Chinese public after a series of high-profile violent incidents.

“They are now synonymous for many Chinese citizens with physical violence, illegal detention and theft,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report last year.

via BBC News – China officials held over watermelon-seller death.

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