The draft amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law, which the National People's Congress deputies are now reviewing, are a historic development.
Guaranteeing accused parties due rights and interests has been at the heart of this round of amendments. Seldom before have human rights, particularly those of criminal suspects, commanded such prominence in Chinese lawmaking.
Although it might seem a footnote to the progress of the law, the addition of "respecting and guaranteeing human rights" to Article 2 is one more reminder of this all-important constitutional principle already present in many of our laws.
Such concern about the rights of all citizens is most conspicuously reflected in stipulations on the prevention of torture and exclusion of illicit evidence.
We are especially impressed by the incorporation of the rules that no suspects should be forced to prove themselves guilty, and that their families are exempt from the obligation to testify against them. That such stipulations have ultimately been written into the draft in spite of the judiciary's well-known reluctance is testament to the resolve to press ahead in the right direction.
Similarly, the attempt to reduce the ambiguity in the articles regarding arrest and living under surveillance is conducive to easing worries over any abuse from exploiting this ambiguity. The clearer definition of terms and procedures, the notification procedure in particular, close some obvious loopholes and provide certain safeguards for those in judicial custody.
It is unlikely to satisfy everyone's hopes for the long-awaited reworking, because some of the amendments are considered too unrealistic to be feasible under current conditions, and because it is the outcome of a step-by-step approach at decision-making levels.
However, Vice-Chairman Wang Zhaoguo of the NPC Standing Committee made it crystal clear while submitting the draft amendments that they are not meant to transcend current realities, and not meant to blindly copy foreign legislation.
But that statement, along with the fact that the proposed amendments have not incorporated the elements of Western legislations some sought, should not blind us to the progress in jurisprudential thinking the draft represents.
For all the benefits they offer, we look forward to the proposed amendments winning the approval of the NPC.
And we hope the national lawmakers can further improve the draft. After all, it was 16 years ago when the law was last amended.