III. Judicial Guarantee for Human Rights

In 2004, China strengthened its judicial reform to ensure strict law enforcement and fair administration of justice, and guarantee citizens' legal rights according to law.

China has cracked down on various criminal offenses in accordance with law to protect citizens' life and the safety of their property. From January to October 2004, the Chinese public security organs investigated and cracked 2.004 million criminal cases. The people's courts at all levels wound up 644,248 criminal cases of first instance, in which 767,951 criminals were sentenced, effectively protecting the victims' legitimate rights and interests.

Adhering to the principle of "enforcing law in the interest of the people," the public security organs strengthened construction of the law enforcement system to ensure that law enforcement is strict, just and humane, improved the system of supervision over law enforcement, and made real efforts to solve some outstanding problems in law enforcement. From September 2003 to October 2004, the public security organs sorted out all the public security rules and regulations in effect since the founding of the People's Republic of China concerning the rights and duties of citizens, legal persons and other organizations. Among the 1,871 laws and regulations, 558 remained, 1,077 were abolished and 164 amended. In 2004, the public security organs worked out the "Working Plan for Solving Outstanding Problems in Law Enforcement to Promote the Construction of a Law Enforcement System of Public Security Organs," which listed key problems to be solved in law enforcement over next three years, and launched a special campaign to address breaches of regulations in law enforcement to conscientiously solve the problems of seizing, sealing up, freezing and confiscating properties, giving orders for business suspension and rectification, and revocation of business certificates and licenses in violation of set regulations. Meanwhile, the public security organs strengthened supervision over key links in law enforcement related to the protection of human rights. According to statistics, in 2004, the Chinese public security and judicial organs handled 22,976 administrative reconsideration cases and 3,666 lawsuits, which were respectively 3.6 percent and 5.4 percent more than those of the previous year. The quality of work in the handling of administrative cases and level of administrative law enforcement were further improved.

The judicial organs have adopted vigorous measures to prevent and contain extended detention. In 2004, the Chinese procuratorial organs had no extended detention, and urged other law-enforcing organs to correct the extended detention of 7,132 people. The Chinese courts cleared up 873 old and new cases of extended detention involving 2,432 people, settling all the cases save a handful due to technical legal problems. By the end of 2004, the Chinese public security organs had no extended detention.

The procuratorial organs have performed their functions honestly, conscientiously strengthened legal supervision and safeguarded justice in law enforcement. In 2004, the procuratorial organs rejected applications for the arrest of 67,904 people; supervised over the canceling of investigation of 2,699 cases, which they found should not have been put on file for investigation; made decisions not to prosecute 21,225 people; appealed against court judgments of 3,063 criminal cases and 13,218 civil cases; proposed for review of 4,333 cases; put 5,569 criminal appeal cases on file for reinvestigation and changed the original judgments in 786 cases; and filed for investigation cases of power abuse, dereliction of duty, soliciting or accepting bribes and malpractices for personal gain involving 3,010 judicial personnel, thus effectively safeguarding the citizens' rights and ensuring fairness and justice. To strengthen the work of investigation and arrest, and to protect suspects' legitimate rights and interests, the Supreme People's Procuratorate formulated the "Opinions on Interrogating Suspects When Handling and Investigating Cases Involving Arrest." At present, all the provincial procuratorates, 349 at the prefecture and city level and 2,407 at the county level are experimenting with the system of citizen supervisors. They account for 86 percent of the total number of procuratorates throughout the country. Under the supervision of the citizen supervisors, 3,341 cases have been concluded, thus effectively preventing handling of cases in violation of law and guaranteeing the quality of case handling.

Since May 2004, the Supreme People's Procuratorate has carried out a special campaign to severely deal with criminal cases involving government functionaries' infringement upon human rights by misusing their powers, focusing on cases of illegal detention and search, extorting confessions by torture, gathering evidence with violence, abusing people in custody, disrupting elections as well as serious cases of dereliction of duty that cause heavy losses of life and property of the people. In total, 1,595 government functionaries suspected of criminal activities were investigated and prosecuted, thus effectively bringing under control offences of infringement on rights.

The judicial organs have strengthened supervision over trials and the handling of petitions and visits involving legal procedures and lawsuits. Adhering to the principle of "handling each and every appeal," they have addressed the "obstacles to appeal" in a practical way. In 2004, the procuratorates throughout the country handled and concluded 20,306 cases of appeal according to law, the people's courts at all levels handled 4.22 million petitions and visits of complaint, and corrected the judgments in 16,967 cases that were proved to be wrongly judged according to law, which accounted for 0.34 percent of the annual total of court decisions in effect.

The trial system with Chinese characteristics has been further improved. Courts at all levels have further carried out the principle of open trial, striving to realize openness in filing for investigation, court hearing, conclusion of trial, and judgment documents and process of enforcement in the hope to promote justice with openness. Observance of trials by the general public has been facilitated with bulletins before trials and simplified procedures for attending trials. Over 50 million citizens observed trials in 2004.

The lawyer system has been continuously improved. In 2004, the Supreme People's Procuratorate formulated the "Regulations of People's Procuratorates to Ensure the Lawful Practice of Lawyers in Criminal Procedures," and the Ministry of Justice promulgated the "Provisional Regulations on Lawyers' Visits to Criminals in Custody." Relevant authorities in various places also promulgated many regulatory documents to guarantee lawyers' rights in practice, all of which further ensured that lawyers practice in accordance with the law. Statistics show that up to June 2004 there were 114,500 lawyers in practice and 11,691 law firms in China.

The legal aid system has been further improved. The Supreme People's Court adopted the "Decision on Providing Judicial Aid to Litigants with Real Financial Difficulties," improving the system of judicial aid. Payment of lawsuit fees have been reduced, exempted or allowed to be delayed, so that the litigants with real financial difficulties in civil and administrative cases, especially senior citizens, women, minors, disabled people, laid-off workers, migrant workers from rural areas, as well as victims of traffic, medical and industrial accidents, can afford to seek justice from the courts. In 2004, the courts throughout the country provided judicial aid in 263,860 cases, an increase of 15.6 percent from the previous year. The judicial aid totaled 1.09 billion yuan, 3.1 percent more than in the previous year. Lawsuit fees have been reduced or exempted for cases involving child-support payment, spouse-support payment and parent-support payment, and lawsuits brought by households in rural areas enjoying the "five guarantees" (food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses - ed.) and by people in urban areas being provided with the minimum living guarantee. The issuance of the "Urgent Notice on Clearing Up Cases Concerning Delayed Payment for Construction Projects and Wages of Migrant Workers," in particular, provided judicial aid to migrant workers from rural areas in cases of labor disputes. As a result, 163,151 cases concerning demands for payment were concluded with high proficiency in filing for investigation, trial and enforcement. In 2004, governments at all levels throughout the country appropriated 217 million yuan in total for legal aid, 43 percent more than in the previous year. Throughout China, 3,023 legal aid organizations were set up, 249 more than in the previous year; and during the year, 190,187 legal aid cases were handled, 23,754 more than in the previous year, extending aid to 294,138 litigants. People from all walks of life also actively participated in legal aid work. The All-China Women's Federation and local women's federations have officially opened 2,700 legal aid centers for women and agencies for protection of women's rights. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions and local trade unions have established 2,990 legal aid organizations for workers. The China Disabled Persons' Federation and local disabled persons' federations have signed cooperation agreements with over 3,000 law firms for legal aid in cases concerning the protection of disabled people's rights. Over 30 institutions of higher learning, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Wuhan University, have provided legal aid services to people with difficulties by combining legal aid and clinical legal education.

The legal rights and interests of people in custody are protected by law. In 2004, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly planned, organized and launched a drive to build "model units for strengthening the enforcement of surveillance and legal supervision, and for guaranteeing smooth criminal proceedings and the legal rights and interests of detainees" in all the detention houses throughout China. Consequently, a large number of model detention houses have emerged with advanced facilities, standard law enforcement and humane management. The system of meeting public procurators has been generally established in detention houses, supervision over food, health care and epidemic prevention for detainees has been strengthened, the detainees' physical health and protection of their property has been accorded with greater attention, and the system of informing detainees of their rights, the system of open procuratorial work and visit system have been improved, thus effectively protecting detainees' legal rights and interests. By the end of 2004, the Chinese procuratorial organs had set up 77 sub-procuratorates in large prisons or areas where prisons and reeducation-through-labor camps are concentrated, and over 3,700 procuratorial offices in medium-sized and small prisons, reeducation-through-labor camps and detention houses. Procurators have been dispatched to over 90 percent of China's prisons, detention houses and reeducation-through-labor camps. The supervision system is being improved step by step.