III. Judicial Guarantee for Human Rights
During the past year and more, China has revised its Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law, promulgated and enforced new laws such as the Lawyers Law and the Law on Administrative Punishment, and taken many other measures to strengthen the judicial guarantee for human rights.
China has cracked down on serious criminal offences in accordance with law, and earnestly guaranteed the people's human rights and safety of lives and property. In 1996, public security and judicial departments launched, according to law, a severe nationwide crackdown on criminal offences seriously endangering public security, such as homicides, robberies, rape, kidnapping and blackmail, and major theft, with emphasis placed on crimes involving the use of guns, crimes with gangster connections and characteristics, and crimes committed by rogues and vicious social forces. These criminal activities have endangered public security, gravely infringed on the citizens' personal safety, lives and property, and are abhored by the people across the country. In accordance with law, public security and judicial departments have punished a number of criminals guilty of the most heinous crimes. Statistics show that in 1996, courts throughout the country sentenced 322,382 criminal offenders who had seriously endangered public security by committing crimes of violence, crimes involving the use of guns, and gang-related crimes. The severe crackdown on crimes has safeguarded social stability and the human rights of the people all over the country, and won the heartfelt support of the general public.
In March of 1997, the Fifth Session of the Eighth National People's Congress made amendments to the Criminal Law enacted in 1979. The amended Criminal Law has 452 articles, an increase of 260 over the previous 192 articles. The amended Criminal Law has further defined three basic principles, namely, ``conviction and penalty according to law,'' ``equality of everyone before the law,'' and ``punishment commensurate with the crime.'' It stipulates: ``there should be no conviction or penalty if an act is not explicitly defined as a criminal act by the law,'' ``all criminal offenders are equal in applying laws,'' and that ``the severity of penalty should be commensurate with the offender's crime and due criminal liabilities.'' These three principles have further improved China's rinciple of rule of law, and are conducive to judicial fairness and to the protection of the legitimate rights of the litigants. Meanwhile, the amended Criminal Law has made explicit stipulations in accordance with reality on some new crimes not defined previously. For instance, the previous offence of indecent activities has now been classified into four crimes, namely, molestation of women, gang-bang, gang brawls, and provoking fights and quarrels and making trouble, while new crimes including mafia crimes, instigation of hatred among people of ethnic groups, securities frauds, and endangerment of the interests of national defense have been added into the law. Moreover, the ``counter-revolutionary crime'' has been revised into ``the crime of jeopardizing state security,'' while it is stipulated that all those offences, which used to fall under the category of ``counter-revolutionary crime'' but virtually have the nature of ordinary crimes, should be punished as ordinary criminal offences. The amendment and enforcement of the Criminal Law have provided a more powerful legal weapon for punishing crimes, safeguarding national security, and protecting human rights of the people.
China has paid close attention to standardizing the practice of administrative and law-enforcement departments, so as to protect citizens' legitimate rights from any infringement. Following the promulgation and enforcement of the Administrative Procedure Law and the Law on State Compensation, in March of 1996 China promulgated the Law on Administrative Punishment, thus standardizing in terms of system the act of administrative punishment by the governments. The procuratorial bodies have attached great importance to the investigation and handling of criminal cases involving leading organs of the Party and the governments, administrative law-enforcement departments, judicial departments, and economic management departments. Statistics reveal that in 1996, the procuratorial bodies put on record and investigated 34,879 major criminal cases that involved embezzlement, bribery and misappropriation of public funds, as well as 4,864 major cases of malfeasance and infringement of citizens' personal and democratic rights.
To strengthen the protection of human rights in various links of the public security and judicial work, China in 1996 made significant revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law enacted in 1979, thus perfecting the criminal judicial procedure and adding stipulations on protecting citizens' rights. First, the amended Criminal Procedure Law has protected in a more specific way innocent people from criminal penalties, by stipulating that ``no one should be convicted guilty before the people's court passes a ruling according to law,'' and that the people's court should pass a ruling of ``not guilty'' and should decide that the charges are to be dropped if it doesn't have sufficient evidence to convict the defendant. Second, the law has abolished the system of detention for interrogation as a mandatory administrative measure, and further standardized mandatory measures such as summons, summons for detention and holding in custody. It explicitly stipulates that ``the longest time for summons and summons for detention shall not exceed 12 hours,'' and that ``it is forbidden to take criminal suspects into custody in disguised forms through continuous summons or summons for detention.'' Third, the law has increased lawyers' involvement in the criminal procedure with the stipulations that ``after being interrogated for the first time or from the date when the investigative organs take any mandatory measures, criminal suspects can hire lawyers as their legal consultants and representatives of appeals and charges,'' and that ``a criminal suspect in a case of public charge has the right to entrust defenders from the date when the case is transferred for examination and prosecution.'' Fourth, the law has intensified the guarantee for the rights of the victims, by listing them as the litigants and granting them a series of rights. These include a certain right of prosecution, the right to ask for putting their cases on record and supervision, the right to apply for a withdrawal and to entrust a legal representative, and the right to plead for an objection to the court's decision, as well as procedural rights during court hearings.
Courts at various levels, focusing on studying the amended Criminal Procedure Law and promoting the reform of court trial procedures, have comprehensively reformed and improved the country's trial system. They have intensified the functions of court hearings, the duty and responsibilities of intercollegiate benches and individual jurors in accordance with the law, and strengthened the protection of legitimate rights and interests of the people. In the meantime, procuratorial bodies have stepped up their efforts to supervise law enforcement, especially to investigate and punish a small number of public security and judiciary personnel who abused power and did not act in accordance with the law. In the supervision over crime investigation, emphasis has been placed on redressing the problems of refusing to register existing cases or to investigate offenses, and of replacing punishments with fines. In 1996, 15,565 rectification opinions were put forth against the conduct of violating laws in investigating crimes. In the supervision over criminal proceedings, 2,422 correction opinions were put forth against the conduct of violating laws. Procuratorial bodies also protested 2,405 court decisions and rulings according to law, which they regarded as really wrong. Procuratorial bodies have in their work paid close attention to the protection of legitimate rights of criminal suspects, defendants, other litigants and even criminals who are serving a jail term, and to earnest investigation and punishment of such crimes as forced confession and illegal custody committed by judicial and law enforcement personnel. Procuratorial bodies, in accordance with law, also changed 570 wrong decisions on arrest warrants, exemption from prosecution and case withdrawal. They handled 379 cases of criminal compensation according to law, concluded 110 of them, and decided to grant compensation to the victims in 44 of the cases.
China's contingent of lawyers has grown rapidly, and has become a major force in safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens. The Lawyers Law of the People's Republic of China, adopted on May 15, 1996, explicitly stipulates that ``lawyers are professionals who, with a lawyer's license obtained according to law, provide legal services to society.'' It contains relevant provisions on the qualifications for working lawyers, their business lines, rights, obligations and other areas. The promulgation and implementation of the Lawyers Law is of great significance to the safeguarding of lawyers' legitimate rights and their operation according to law, protection of the legitimate rights and interests of litigants and the correct implementation of laws. According to statistics, the number of employees in the lawyers profession nationwide exceeded 100,000 in 1996, 12,000 or 12.6 percent more than in the previous year; and the number of lawyers' offices reached 8,265, up 1,065 or 14.8 percent. In 1996, lawyers across the country served as consultants for 254,000 government institutions and enterprises, 8.7 percent more than in the previous year; served in 251,000 criminal cases as defending lawyers or agents ad litem, up 23.1 percent, the biggest increase in recent years. They also handled 389,000 civil lawsuits, an increase of 23.2 percent; more than 381,000 economic lawsuits, up 17.2 percent; 23,000 administrative lawsuits, up 28.4 percent; 455, 000 cases involving non-lawsuit legal matters, an increase of 0.8 percent.
China is a country with a relatively low crime rate. In 1996, its crime rate dropped 5.4 percent from the previous year. The number of major categories of crimes such as homicides, injuries to human bodies, robberies and thefts all dropped from the previous year.