The Criminal Procedure Law amendment draft is due to be submitted for review to the fifth session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, which will convene in Beijing on Monday.
The draft, along with the recent amendment to the country's Criminal Law that was put into force on May 1, 2011, testifies to China's continuing efforts to ensure that the rule of law with Chinese characteristics safeguards people's well-being amid the country's rapid economic and social development.
It is the second time the country has proposed major revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law since its promulgation in 1979.
Since the enactment of its Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law in 1979, China has promulgated 27 NPC Standing Committee decisions, eight criminal law amendments, and some other legislative and judicial interpretations.
However, further improvement in the country's criminal legal system, either in its structure or content, is still needed due to the new criminal acts that have emerged with the profound changes the country has undergone.
At the fourth plenary session of its 16th national congress, the Communist Party of China set the goal of building a harmonious society, a task that calls for the establishment of reforms in the criminal legal system to meet the practical needs of the country's development. Under the strategy of "governing according to law", the core of any amendments to the country's criminal law should be aimed at maintaining social stability and guaranteeing people's rights and livelihoods.
China historically advocated the application of strict punishments and this had a profound influence on the construction and development of its modern legislation. In 1997, the number of capital-sentence charges stood at 68, making it one of the countries with the most severe charges in the world. In its amendment to the Criminal Law last year, it abolished the death penalty for 13 criminal charges.
The daft revision of the procedural law pays more attention to the protection of individual rights and increases protection for citizens' rights.
For example, the amendments prohibit the use of threats, coercion and cheating to gather evidence. And families of the detained should be notified within 24 hours unless the families are not accessible or the case is related to national security or terrorism.
China has also made greater efforts to protect people's livelihoods in recent years. The country's rapid development in the past decades has not only brought remarkable changes to its political, economic and cultural landscapes, but also raised demands for the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.
The amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law also emphasize the rights of defendants to legal counsels. They will enable lawyers to inspect and copy the factual statements and charges offered by prosecutors. And defendants and their lawyers should be unmonitored during their private talks.
Against the backdrop of building a harmonious society, the country is paying unprecedented attention to the interests of ordinary people and continually strengthening the protection of people's livelihoods through legislation.
For instance, the 2011 amendment to the Criminal Law metes out sterner sentences for organized crimes, dangerous driving, payment defaults and illegal sales of human organs.
It also stiffens the penalties against some special crimes and pays more attention to the protection of an individual's rights to life and property. Together with the lowering of the criminal threshold for significant environment pollution cases and the sales of fake medicines, these changes reflect the country's civic rights-based approach in reforming the criminal legal system.
The author is a researcher with the Center of Criminal Law Studies under Wuhan University.