Using torture to extract confessions must be eliminated, China\’s Supreme People\’s Court said on Thursday, singling out a widespread practice that has long attracted international condemnation.
\”Inquisition by torture used to extract a confession, as well as the use of cold, hunger, drying, scorching, fatigue and other illegal methods to obtain confessions from the accused must be eliminated,\” the Supreme Court said in a statement posted on its official microblog account.
The Supreme People\’s Court also introduced more stringent rules for death penalty cases, saying adequate evidence must be furnished and that only experienced judges should handle capital punishment trials.
China\’s government said last week it would work to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.
via China Supreme Court rules out confession through torture | Reuters.
The initial communiqué that emanated from China’s major meeting of top Communist Party leaders on November 12th focused on economic reform and had little to say about the legal realm. That changed three days later when the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party released a 60-point “resolution” that announced two potentially significant legal reforms and provided more detail about additional reform targets.
While it’s only possible to gauge the transformation of rhetoric into action after the fact, I’m not alone in welcoming the new goals. I recently attended a long-planned meeting in Seattle of a group of specialists on Chinese law. The meeting began on November 14, and the mood was discouraged given the scarcity of references to legal institutions in the communiqué. By the next morning, however, the atmosphere shifted as details of the just-released resolution trickled in.
The resolution specifically mentions two potentially important reforms: abolition of the system of “re-education through labor” (in Chinese: laojiao) and a plan to move the courts and the procuracy (prosecutors) away from the influence of local governments.
Laojiao, initiated in 1957, is a system under which the police may send people to labor camps for up to four years without formal arrest or trial. Initially established to deal with recidivist petty criminals who would otherwise burden the courts, it has been extensively used to incarcerate “counter-revolutionary” dissidents, aggressive petitioners, members of the Falun Gong religious movement and other persons deemed to present unwelcome political challenges to CCP rule. It has long provoked criticism by Chinese legal scholars, other advocates of legal reform and members of the public.
via China Legal Reform Promises Cause for Cautious Optimism – China Real Time Report – WSJ.
A Chinese newspaper has published a rare front-page plea for the release of one of its journalists held by police.
The New Express, based in Guangzhou, called for Chen Yongzhou, who was detained last week, to be freed.
The paper said Mr Chen\’s detention was linked to reports he wrote about a part state-owned construction equipment company based in Hunan.
Police in Hunan have confirmed the journalist has been detained for \”damage to business reputation\’\’.
Earlier this year, Mr Chen wrote several reports about Zoomlion, which is partly owned by the Hunan provincial government.
Zoomlion issued a statement after one New Express article, which alleged it had improperly accounted for sales, caused its share price to drop.
In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange in late May, the company called the claims \”false, groundless and misleading\”.
via BBC News – China paper in detained journalist plea.
The Communist Party of China seems to be trying hard to apply the ‘rule of law’ to its own cadres. Must be a good thing.
BBC: “The trial has begun in China of six Communist Party officials accused of causing the death of a man who drowned after his head was repeatedly plunged in icy water during an investigation.
Yu Qiyi, the chief engineer of a state-owned company in Wenzhou, was being interrogated by party officials – and not police – when he died on 9 April.
As the trial got under way, the family lawyer said he was ejected from court.
Analysts say the case casts light on the darker side of party discipline.
Indeed the case, which is being heard in the city of Quzhou, appears to be a rare acknowledgement of some of the methods that lie behind the country’s well publicised crackdown on corruption, according to correspondents.
The case is extremely sensitive and the lawyer for Mr Yu’s family has already expressed his anger at being removed from court, saying the legal process was flawed.
Reuters also reports that the lawyer for one of the accused expressed concern about the court’s actions because her client wanted to apologise.
There has been no comment from the lawyers of the other accused men and neither the government nor the Communist Party has commented publicly on the case.”
via BBC News – China Communist Party investigators tried over drowning.
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.
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/
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.
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.