Full Text: Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009

III. Judicial Guarantee of Human Rights

In 2009 China took a further step in improving its judicial system to strengthen the protection of human rights in law enforcement and judicial practices.

China has cracked down on various criminal offenses in accordance with the law to protect citizens' life and property and their other human rights. In 2009 China's procuratorial organs ratified the arrest of 941,091 suspects in criminal cases and instituted legal proceedings against 1,134,380 people. The people's courts at all levels settled trials of first instance of 767,000 criminal cases, in which 997,000 criminals received prison sentence, and cleared 3,407,000 old cases. These actions protected the victims' legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law.

Adhering to the principle of "enforcing law in the interest of the people," China's public security organs have actively adopted measures convenient for and beneficial to the people as a standard practice of law enforcement. In October 2009 the Ministry of Public Security enacted the Rules on Law Enforcement of Public Security Organs, which clearly specifies the standards for handling administrative and criminal cases by public security organs to prevent abuse of power and infringements upon citizens' rights. In light of their actual conditions, public security organs at all levels formulated law-enforcement standards and laid down specific requirements for human rights protection in law enforcement activities. In December 2009 the Ministry of Public Security issued the Decision on the Amendment to the "Regulations on the Application for and Use of Motor Vehicle Driving Licenses." The Decision loosened the restrictions on the physical conditions of people with lower limb, finger and hearing disabilities so as to meet their demand to drive motor vehicles. The Regulations on the Disciplines for People's Police Forces of Public Security Organs, which went into effect on June 1, 2010, is China's first systematic departmental ordinance regarding punishment of breach of discipline by the public security organs and people's police forces. Disciplinary measures are clearly defined for physical punishment and abuse of suspects and people in custody, and other targeting people of public security work.

The procuratorial organs perform their legal supervision functions conscientiously to protect citizens' rights. In 2009 the procuratorial organs performed their supervision duties by requesting the public security organs to investigate 19,466 additional cases, and to cancel 6,742 cases. They made decisions to arrest 21,232 additional criminals and suspects and cancel the arrests of 123,235 people. They also brought suits against an additional 18,954 people and canceled the prosecutions of 33,048 people. The procuratorial organs urged the correction of unlawful procedures during the investigation of 25,664 cases, protested what they believed to be wrong judgments in 3,963 criminal cases, and put forward rectification opinions for unlawful procedures in 4,035 criminal trials. The procuratorial organs resolutely prosecuted crimes infringing citizens' human rights committed by officials making use of their positions, and investigated 478 state functionaries suspected of illegally taking people into custody, sabotaging elections, retaliation and false accusation. (more)

Judicial transparency has increased. In 2009 the Supreme People's Court issued the Six Provisions on Judicial Openness, which applies the principle of openness to every procedure of trial and law enforcement, improves the regulations on the release of judgment documents on the Internet and live broadcast of court hearings, requires openness of the judicial process and results, adopts a regular press-release system, and expands the scope and depth of judicial openness. In the same year, the Supreme People's Court enacted the Disciplinary Regulations for Staff Members of People's Courts. On the basis of this ordinance, 795 staff members of people's courts at all levels were investigated and punished for breaches of law or discipline. Among them, 137 were transferred to judicial organs for investigation. A total of 303,000 letters voicing grievances from ordinary people were addressed by the courts and 1,055,000 complainants were received.

The legal aid system has achieved remarkable results, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people with financial difficulties. In June 2009 the Ministry of Justice organized activities with the theme "Legal aid services for the convenience of the people," and promoted ten measures nationwide to help ordinary people with legal affairs. The coverage of legal aid has been expanded throughout the country, and issues including health care, employment, education, work remuneration and social security which are closely related to the people's well-being have been incorporated as supplements into the coverage of legal aid for the protection of citizens' rights and interests. More and more regions in China have adjusted the "financial difficulty level" to 1.5 to 2 times the minimum living standard of the region in question so that more people with financial difficulties can enjoy the benefit of legal aid. The legal aid network is being continuously consolidated. By the end of 2009 some 3,274 legal aid organizations and 58,031 legal aid service centers had been set up at the provincial, city and county levels nationwide, providing convenient access to legal aid services. In 2009, over 640,000 legal aid cases were handled, and legal consultancy services were extended to 4.84 million people, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people with financial difficulties.

The role of lawyers in protecting human rights through judicial means has been increasingly strengthened. In 2009 China formulated regulations and rules in this respect, specifying relevant stipulations in the Law of the People's Republic of China on Lawyers. These detailed regulations facilitate the implementation of stipulations in the Law on lawyers' rights to consult with clients, to read case records, and to investigate and collect evidence, advancing the development of litigation on the part of lawyers and creating a strong legal guarantee for lawyers to carry out their responsibilities and play a larger role in judicial procedures. In 2009 lawyers throughout the country undertook over 1.96 million litigation cases of all types, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of their clients and promoting judicial justice.

The legal rights and interests of people in detention and prison are protected by law. In 2009 the Ministry of Justice enacted and implemented the Assessment Measures for the Work on the Rehabilitation of Criminals in Prison to popularize the performance assessment system of rehabilitation work in an all-round way. It also carried out a campaign focusing on "regulating law enforcement actions and raising the level of law enforcement" in an attempt to solve the problems in law enforcement. A rehabilitation mode of "5+1+1," namely five days of rehabilitation through labor and one day of classroom education, plus one day of rest every week has been widely adopted in prisons. Measures have been taken to ensure that prisoners' standard of living and health care levels always keep up with the country's social and economic development. In 2009 the procuratorial organs urged the correction of the excessive detention of 337 people, and put forward rectification opinions on 22,268 cases of unlawful actions. In the same year the procuratorial organs joined hands with the public security organs in launching a special inspection of supervision and law enforcement at detention houses throughout China. This campaign discovered and punished 2,207 prisoners who bullied other inmates, and 123 of them were prosecuted for their acts involving criminal offences. The procuratorial organs and the Ministry of Justice jointly carried out a campaign to "check for possible hidden dangers of accidents and improve the safety of detention houses and prisons." As a result improvement was made in safety measures and supervision work in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of criminals.

Meanwhile, the people's mediation system has been strengthened. By the end of 2009 a total of 823,000 people's mediation committees with 4,938,000 mediators from among ordinary people had been established throughout China. In 2009 these committees mediated 7,676,000 disputes, prevented 48,000 civil disputes from escalating into criminal cases, and stopped 18,000 people from committing suicide in civil dispute cases.

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