Posts tagged: exclusionary rule

Margaret K. Lewis: What to Expect with China’s New CPL

By , September 23, 2012

Prof. Margaret K. Lewis

Part 1 of a two part interview series with Prof. Margaret K. Lewis

This past March, after almost a year of public comment and almost sixteen years of waiting, China’s National People’s Congress finally revised its Criminal Procedure Law. The revisions were ostensibly designed to bring China more in line with the rest of the world, providing greater rights to criminal suspects and defendants.

But while the law on paper provides some greater protections, the question remains – does it go far enough.  Will it ever go far enough given the immense power of China’s Public Security Bureau.

With the law set to go into effect in three months, on January 1, Prof. Margaret K. Lewis, associate professor of law at Seton Hall University and a noted Chinese criminal law expert, took the time to speak with China Law & Policy and explain many of the law’s new developments and many of its potential problems.  In Part One of this two part series, Prof. Lewis explains the background to China’s Criminal Procedure Law, the different stakeholder who influenced the recent revisions, a confusing new “right” against self-incrimination and the new provisions to limit confessions obtained through torture.  Will they actually work?

Click here to listen to Part 1 of this interview series with Prof. Margaret K. Lewis, or read below for transcript of Part 1.
Length: 14:35 minutes (audio will open in a seperate browser).

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EL:  Thank you for joining us today Prof. Lewis. 

ML:  My pleasure

Background on China’s Criminal Procedure Law & the Battle Over the Revisions

ELBefore we delve into the details of China’s new Criminal Procedure Law or

NPC busy at work, passing laws

what is known as the CPL, can you give our listeners some background: what exactly is a criminal procedure law?  Does the United States have anything like that? 

ML: China has both a Criminal Law and a Criminal Procedure Law or CPL that apply to the entire country. This legal system would be more familiar to students of Continental civil-law jurisdictions than to American lawyers. There is not one unified Criminal Law that applies across the U.S. because, in addition to federal criminal law, each state has its own laws.

Now, for criminal procedure, although there are laws, regulations, rules and other types of formal legal documents that shape the criminal process in the United States, we rely heavily on case law to determine what procedures are allowed.  For example, what constitutes an unreasonable search?

Importantly, in China, the Criminal Law and CPL are distinct, standalone laws with the former addressing substantive crimes and defenses—such as what constitutes theft, murder, and other crimes—and the latter addressing the process for investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating alleged criminal activity. Yet these laws are closely intertwined.

For example, use of the death penalty is first constrained by the substantive offenses for which it is a possible penalty; this now stands at fifty-five, down from sixty-eight in the pre-2011 version of the Criminal Law—not a small number.  If a person is prosecuted for a death-eligible crime, the CPL lays out the procedures that must be followed, including a final review by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) prior to execution. How China actually uses the death penalty is still largely opaque, with the number of annual death sentences and executions remaining a state secret and estimates really range widely though generally now in the several-thousand range. That said, the trend in recent years has been to constrain the scope through both through substantive and procedural reforms.

Today in China, we have a revised CPL that will go into effect as you said in a few months. The law is written at quite a high degree of abstraction. Rumors have been swirling this summer about a forthcoming interpretation from the Supreme People’s Court that will flesh out the provisions in the law.  This process happened in previous times when we had a new law and is par for the course.  Most important, we need to wait to see how government authorities actually implement the law in practice.

EL:  I feel like for at least the past six years, the Chinese government has been actively talking about revising and amending the Criminal Procedure Law, the CPL. Why did it do it now?  Why 2011, 2012?  

ML:  I would emphasize at least the past six years. It’s been a boy who’s cried wolf or a Congress who’s cried law for a long time.  It’s always difficult to read the tealeaves, but anecdotal reports indicate that there were deep-rooted differences of opinions among various stakeholders in the drafting process.   Generally speaking, the 2013 CPL retains the same structure of the previous law but expands the number of articles from 225 to 290. The revisions themselves reflect tension and compromises between the public security forces and more reform-minded academics and other individuals involved in the drafting process.

For instance, re-education through labor has long been a contentious issue.  This is a police-controlled sanction which is considered administrative, not criminal, and thus does not go through the courts as would a criminal sentence.  Yet the police can send someone away for three years with a possible one-year extension.   Reports circulated for years that China would revise re-education through labor by including it within the CPL or creating some sort of separate court review to comply with provisions in international human rights documents or just abolish it entirely. To date, none of these proposed reforms have prevailed over resistance from the public security forces and they maintain control over the re-education through labor system.

ELJust to follow up on that…so basically the two main stakeholders you think are the public security interests and then the academic interests?

ML:  Of course there are also prosecutors, there are courts.  I think the extremes are represented by the most human rights-oriented scholars—of course not all scholars agree on that—and then the real law-and-order police forces.  I think it gets more complicated when you look at prosecutors and judges: their interests can cut both ways.

A New Right Against Self-Incrimination?

ELRight, right.  In talking about the generalities, you mentioned the changes or

US' Miranda Rights find their origin in the Constitution's 5th Amendment

some of the lack of changes like re-education through labor.  But I want to focus now on something you have actually written about recently in your article Presuming Innocence, or Corruption, in China, [and] one of the big changes to the new CPL which is basically a right against self-incrimination which we find in Article 50.  Did the previous Criminal Procedure Law not provide such a right to defendants?  Is the right in the 2012 CPL similar to the right to silence that criminal suspects and defendants have in the U.S.?

ML:  The right against self-incrimination in the U.S. has a complex history and its contours are notably different than the new provisions we’re seeing in China’s CPL.

The revised CPL has neither a clear right against self-incrimination nor a clear presumption of innocence. It moves in that direction but stops short.  A way we commonly think of the right against self-incrimination is, as you say, a right to silence, which is included as part of the famous Miranda Rights [in the U.S.].  Anyone who has ever watched any TV knows those by heart.  In China, the 2012 revisions have been lauded for providing that interrogators not force people to incriminate themselves, but this welcome addition fails to provide a clear right to silence, especially when combined with the lingering requirement that suspects must answer questions truthfully. And there’s still an overt emphasis on leniency for confessions, which puts greater pressure on suspects to be forthcoming with information.

ELRight, and just to follow up on that.  I noticed that too when I looked at the new CPL, that you have this sort-of right against self-incrimination in Article 50 and then you have what is still left in the new CPL from the old CPL, is this requirement in Article 93 that the suspect answers truthfully and that the interrogator asks questions and they have to talk about their guilt or innocence, and that they answer truthfully.  How do you see those two provisions playing out, or at all? 

ML:  It is difficult to square Article 50 with Article 93. The best I can tell is suspects must answer truthfully, but interrogators are limited in the measures they can take to force people to talk. At base, this tension reflects the horse-trading that went on in the drafting process. We had more reform-minded drafters who wanted a robust right against self-incrimination but there was no way that this was going to get past the public security forces and other more law-and-order factions.

Evidence Obtained through Torture – Will it Really Be Excluded?

EL: That’s really interesting because I think a lot of people think China is just this one-party state and there isn’t these factions and there isn’t horse trading.  And it seems like in your response, you alluded to one of the bigger things that I think a lot of people are applauding which is the adoption of provisions excluding evidence obtained through torture, especially confessions.  Confessions in China are usually the basis of most convictions I believe, but correct me if I am wrong, and there has been a lot of recent stories of murder victims who appear alive and then they have to set the person free.  Can you talk more about these new provisions found primarily in Articles 54 to 58 of the new CPL?

ML:  Confessions still are king in China and certainly the easiest case for a wrongful conviction is when the alleged murder victim returns alive, as seen in the case of Zhao Zuohai.  In that case, the murder “victim” returned to the village alive after his self-confessed “murderer” had spent a decade in prison.  Obviously you don’t need DNA evidence to prove someone’s innocence when someone who is supposedly beheaded now returns to the village intact.

That case brought unprecedented public scrutiny to methods used to extract confessions. It eventually came to light that police had beaten Zhao during the interrogation process. Zhao’s case and other reports of coercion and outright physical torture prompted the release of new evidentiary rules in 2010.  That included, among other provisions, a pre-trial mechanism to challenge the admissibility of illegally obtained confessions.

These new rules have largely been incorporated into the [revised] Criminal

Zho Zuohai with a compensation check for being wrongfully convicted

Procedure Law and this has marked a step towards recognizing the extreme reliance on confessions and the concerns for abuse and mistakes that are inherent in such a one-dimensional method of evidence collection. Again, the new CPL is not yet in effect, but reports of defendants invoking the 2010 rules are few and news of successful challenges limited to at best a handful.

ELJust in trying to understand how these new provisions will work, who can actually raise the issue of a confession obtained through torture and what happens once it’s raised?  I think you mentioned a pre-trial mechanism to analyze that.

ML:  The law provides that prosecutors should conduct an investigation on their own volition if they are tipped off that investigators used unlawful methods of evidence collection [Article 55].  But should is different than will. How enthusiastic prosecutors will be using this power is subject to doubt.

Similarly, judges should conduct an investigation if they suspect that investigators used unlawful methods of evidence collection [Article. 56].

Moreover, and most interestingly, the defense may request the court to exclude the evidence gathered by unlawful means. This is a marked change from the prior Criminal Procedure Law. However, as with the 2010 Evidence Rules, it is questionable how receptive courts will be to these applications. Defense counsel is also hampered in its ability to access evidence that would prove illegal means.  And you need to have a defense lawyer who understands these rules to begin with.

There are a number of practical hurdles that stand between what the law says and what we are actually going to see in practice.

What new rights will suspects & defendants have in China's new CPL?

ELAnother interesting thing, and I don’t know how this works as much in a civil law country, the CPL does not define what is considered torture.  Even in the U.S., there are tactics used in interrogation that while rough, are not legally torture.  Are there any other regulations in China which define torture?  How will the courts go about defining torture?  I know it is a civil law system but will there be any, sort-of, common law definitions emerging for torture?

ML:  First there is an issue of translation. The phrase you often hear in Chinese—xingxun bigong [刑讯逼供] —is often translated as “extracting confessions through torture” but it uses a different word for torture than, for example, in United Nations Convention Against Torture, which is kuxing [酷刑]. Right there, sometimes there is a little bit of questioning what we are dealing with.

To my knowledge, there is no clear definition of torture in Chinese law, but that is true in other jurisdictions as well. I think one concern is that, by giving a clear definition, it can be easier for people to inflict suffering on another person and say, “But, look, what I did is not in the definition of torture.”  Sometimes there is a reason not to have the definition too clearly spelled out.

And as you point out, a related issue is what practices short of physical torture are deemed illegal; for example, coercion, lying to suspects, playing psychological games. When do interrogators cross the line from using creative, acceptable tactics to measures that society really wants to condemn.

Part 2 of the Interview to Follow

Use of China’s Exclusionary Rule & Its Potential Impact on Upcoming CPL Adoption

By , October 10, 2011

Over at the US-Asia Law Institute’s blog, research fellow, Jeremy Daum has just published a thought provoking article on the Zhang Guoxi case, the first case to publicly – and perhaps most effectively – use China’s exclusionary rule to exclude evidence that was obtained through torture.

In June 2010, China surprised the world by issuing detailed rules on the use of evidence obtained through torture, essentially excluding it as the basis of conviction when the prosecutor could not show that the evidence was obtained legally and without torture.  China Law & Policy blogged about these new rules here and here.

On paper, the new rules provided hope that the police would reign in their ardent use of torture as a means to obtain a conviction.  But in practice, it appeared that the courts, the enforcers of the new exclusionary rules, had little institutional power to control the more powerful police and prosecutor’s offices.  This fear appeared to be realized when the Supreme People’s Court, a few weeks after the Rules’ adoption, chose not to apply them to overturn a death sentence that appeared to be based on a confession obtained through torture.

But as Daum describes below, a trial court in Ningbo has done what scholars thought was impossible – use the exclusionary rules to deny the use of a suspect’s confession where the prosecutor was unable to, or more aptly was too arrogant to provide evidence that the confession was obtained legally.

The Ningbo trial court did not just stop there.  Instead, the trial court issued a clear and transparent opinion on its decision, reflecting its reliance on the letter of the law concerning the new exclusionary rules. As Daum notes below, in China such an opinion from a trial court is rare making Daum wonder, what impact will the appellate court’s decision (the decision has now been appealed to the intermediary court), and the public’s response, have on the Chinese government’s impending adoption of an amended Criminal Procedure Law (“CPL”).

Below is an excerpt of Daum’s interesting article with a link to the full version.

 

Zhang Guoxi Case: a simple case of bribery?

Excluded : The Zhang Guoxi Case

By Jeremy Daum
Research Fellow, US-Asia Law Institute, NYU Law School

Normally, ‘dog bites man’ is not news, but in the generally bleak climate for reform that pervades China’s criminal justice system, a story of “judge upholds law” has gained some traction in the Chinese media. As Chinese and foreign experts scrambled to absorb new draft revisions to China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) in time to offer their opinions during the single month allotted for public comment, another less publicized story was also making waves in the legal community. A trial court in Ningbo has been hailed as the first to give full force to rules on the exclusion of illegally gathered evidence jointly introduced slightly over a year ago by China’s Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Justice and top law enforcement agencies (“the Rules”), by excluding a confession and allowing a defendant to go unpunished…

…The case itself is remarkable only in its mundanity.  It is an ordinary bribery case in which Zhang Guoxi (章国锡), an official from a local construction administration project, was accused of abusing his office to accept seventy-six thousand yuan (about $12,000 U.S.) in graft over four years. The mistreatment that Zhang allegedly received at the hands of interrogators is also not the sort of blood-curdling horror story that “shocks the conscience” or that one might expect would provoke a judge to take a stance against his investigative and prosecutorial colleagues, risking his career and reputation….

….What is exceptional about the case is instead the trial court’s insistence that prosecutors and investigators follow both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Read the full article here.

China’s First Test of the New Exclusionary Rules – A Dog Without A Bite

By , September 30, 2010

Defendants await trial in the Chongqing Mob Crackdown

On June 1, 2010, China openly admitted to a huge problem in its criminal justice system – the reliance on confessions obtained through torture. On that date, China issued regulations establishing a new system by which confessions obtained through torture would be excluded from trial. Although the torture of criminal suspects is illegal under Chinese criminal law, the law had been largely silent about whether that evidence, once obtained, should be excluded from trial. Noting the inherent unreliability of confessions obtained through torture, the new regulations clearly established rules to try to eliminate such evidence from criminal trials. This was progress.

Last week, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), had the opportunity to test these new exclusionary rules and, as China’s highest court, show by example that these regulations were passed to have some bite. But instead, on Sunday, September 26, 2010, the SPC chose to ignore its mandate and Fan Qihang was executed.

Fan Qihang’s trial was one of the many from the Chongqing mafia crackdown. The city of Chongqing has long had a problem with organized crime; with many officials, judges and police on the take, the city was an Al Capone dream. But in 2007, Chongqing’s own Elliot Ness arrived in the form of Bo Xilai. As Chongqing’s Chinese Communist Party boss, Bo led a swift campaign to wipe out the local mafia, and by the end of November, 2009, over 800 arrests were issued and over 300 people prosecuted. And Bo meant business. No one was spared; even high officials and successful business men were prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms and even death.

Fan Qihang was one of the defendants who received the latter. A Chongqing construction mogul, Fan was accused of running a crime syndicate and of arranging for the murder of Li Minghang, member of a warring gang. On February 2, 2010, Fan was convicted and sentenced to death, over the objections of his lawyer who maintained that Fan’s confession was obtained through torture.

Fan’s appeals fell on deaf ears and in a last ditch effort to save his client’s life, Zhu released videos of his client made during his meetings with him while awaiting trial. In the video, Fan details the torture and shows to the camera fresh wounds of where he was shackled and hung from the iron bars in his holding cell for days on end. In anguish, Fan tried to kill himself twice – once biting off the tip of his tongue and the other repeatedly banging his head against the wall. Medical reports back up these suicide attempts. (see Ng Tze-wei, “Lawyer reveals grim details of client’s torture,” South China Moring Post, July 29, 2010).

With this mounting concrete evidence of a confession obtained through torture, Fan’s case offered the perfect opportunity for the SPC to show the strength of China’s new exclusionary rules, reverse Fan’s conviction and order a new trial without the use of Fan’s confession. Such a decision would also be a radical signal to China’s criminal justice system that the high court was not going to stand for such blatant violations of the new regulations.
But that’s not what happened. Instead by affirming Fan’s death sentence, the SPC let it be known that even with the new exclusionary rules on the books, it will still be business as usual. Confessions should be obtained at all costs, even at the cost of justice.

But before we criticize China too much, it’s important that we look at ourselves. Fan’s execution comes on the heels of the controversial execution in Virginia of Teresa Lewis. Lewis, along with two other men, was convicted of the killing of her husband and step-son in order to obtain her husband’s life insurance payments. But unlike most who receive the death penalty in the United States, Lewis never pulled the trigger. Instead, the man Lewis was having an affair with, Matthew Shallenberger, and another cohort, did the shooting; in on the plan, Lewis left the doors to the house unlocked so that the two men wouldn’t have difficulty getting in.

Although Shallenberger and the other shooter were both given life imprisonment, Lewis was given death with the judge stating that Lewis was the mastermind of the scheme and by far more culpable than either of the other two. Borderline mentally retarded with an I.Q. of around 71 (Shallenberger’s IQ ranges around 113 and he was diagnosed with a manipulative personality disorder), Lewis’ execution last Thursday was heavily criticized both in the U.S. and abroad as a gross violation of justice and due process.

To be sure, China executes thousands more people than the U.S. (to date this year, the U.S. has executed 39 people) and its violations of due process, fairness and justice are much more egregious than what is seen here. But these two executions – Lewis and Fan’s – falling back to back makes one wonder, by maintaining a death penalty how much of a cover does the U.S. offer China? And why do we want to?

China’s New Rules on Illegally-Obtained Evidence – Finally Published But Less than Expected

By , June 29, 2010

In our June 2, 2010 post – “A Paper Tiger?” – we discussed China’s newly adopted “Regulations on the Exclusion of Illegally Obtained Evidence in Criminal Cases.” At that time, the Regulations were not publicly available and we based our analysis on a summary of the regulations published in the state-run media by Prof. Fan Chongyi, a noted criminal procedure expert at the China University of Politics and Law.

Last week, the Chinese government finally publicly issued the “Regulations on the Exclusion of Illegally Obtained Evidence in Criminal Cases” (English translation courtesy of DuiHua Foundation; Chinese version here).  These Regulations do not portray the sophistication found in Prof. Fan’s analysis, showing that perhaps Chinese legal academia is more progressive and more committed to legal reform than the Chinese government.  This shouldn’t be surprising.  In order for these Regulations to really have an impact, it was necessary to bring on board China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and Ministry of State Security (MSS), two police bodies that, as in most cultures, are inherently conservative and do not like their investigative powers reined in by the law.  While the Regulations are a step forward, it is a bit disappointing that they do not go as far as we had originally hoped.

In addition to some of the issues noted in our previous post, the Regulations raise some of the following issues:

  • Will a Chinese court ever conduct an investigatory hearing as to the legality of the confession? Articles 6 and 7 of the Regulations govern the burden of proof when raising the issue of a confession gained through torture.  Similar to the law in the U.S., under the Regulations, the defense has the right to raise the issue of a confession obtained through torture but must offer a sufficient factual basis for the court to order a hearing on the matter.  Similarly, the Chinese regulations places a minimum burden on the defense to offer some factual basis for its claim; Article 6 calls for the defense to provide the name of the person who performed the torture, the time the torture occurred, the place, the manner and the content of the torture in order for the court to call for further investigation.  If the defense can offer that minimal evidence, the court assumes that the confession was obtained illegally and the burden of proof switches to the prosecutor to offer evidence or testimony that the confession was obtained legally as required by Article 7.

But Article 6 and 7 provide no standards for the evidence.  For the defense, Article  6 requires that some “leads” or “evidence” be provided to the court.  While the Article 6 offers some examples of what the leads or evidence could be, does the defense have to provide all of those examples?  If so, how would a defendant know the names of his interrogators?  There isn’t necessarily a polite introduction aspect to an interrogation. Will a defendant, after a few rounds of torture, even remember the time and the place of the torture?  Likely the few pieces of evidence a defendant would be able to offer is the manner and content of the torture.  But it is unclear if just those two pieces of evidence would be sufficient for the court to switch the burden of proof to the prosecutor.

If the court does happen to order a shift in the burden of proof, Article 7 is similarly silent on the sufficiency of evidence a prosecutor needs to provide to show that the confession was gained legally.  In fact, Article 7 is even less clear on what that evidence should be offered and provides little guidance as to what a judge should consider and the weight of any evidence.  Would a court find a signed statement from one of the interrogators stating that there was no torture enough evidence?  Article 7 does state that audio and video recordings could be sufficient, but does not mandate this type of evidence.  If Article 7 had mandated that the prosecutor provide video or audio evidence of the interrogation, then the Regulations would be a huge step forward in preventing torture during an interrogation.  Perhaps in practice courts will de facto require such evidence, giving more bite to the Regulations.  But nothing in the Regulations themselves currently mandate video or audio evidence.

  • Is a prosecutor able to delay the trial indefinitely? Interestingly, Article 7 also offers the prosecutor the opportunity to postpone the trial so that he or she can obtain more evidence to show that the confession was obtained legally. In accordance with the Regulations, the prosecutor would request a postponement under the Article 165 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL).  However, Article 165 of the CPL contemplates three different situations in which a trial could be delayed, two of which are applicable in a case where a prosecutor needs more evidence to prove the legality of a confession: (1) the need to notify a new witness to appear in court or to obtain new physical evidence and (2) when the public prosecutor discovers there is a need to conduct a supplementary investigation.  Only the latter situation contains a one-month time restriction (see CPL Article 166); postponement due to the need to notify witnesses or obtain new physical evidence does not have a time restriction.  While CPL Article 165(2) seems most applicable to situations where a prosecutor requests more time to obtain evidence to show that a confession was obtained legally, a court could postpone a trial on the grounds found in CPL Article 165(1), especially if the court is pressured by the Chinese Communist Party, through an adjudication committee, to give the prosecutor more time to obtain enough evidence to convict.  Until courts have greater independence, expect outside influence in politically-important cases.  Articles 8 and 9 of the Regulations also allow a postponement in the trial for further investigation: Article 8 is at the request of the court and Article 9 is at the request of the prosecutor during the trial.  Neither Article 8 nor Article 9 reference any portion of the CPL which would limit the time of the postponement.  In fact, the language in Article 9 is very closely aligned with the language found in CPL Article 165(1), which does not limit the time length or the postponement.
  • Does the appeals process offer greater protection from illegally-obtained confessions? Article 12 contemplates an appeal process and creates an incentive for the defense to raise the issue of an illegally-obtained confession at trial.  Under Article 12, if the defense alleges that the defendant’s confession was obtained through torture, the court refuses to investigate the allegation, and the court uses the confession as a basis for a conviction, then on the appeal – or what is known in China as the “trial in the second instance” and the court retries the case – the appellate court must conduct an investigation.  This appears similar to the U.S. system of raising an objection on the trial level in order to “preserve” the issue for appeal.  But looking more closely at Article 12, a lot more elements are required to preserve the objection.  In the U.S., filing a motion to suppress evidence or merely objecting to an issue at trial, even if overruled, is enough to preserve the issue for appeal and if properly preserved, the appellate court must re-examine the trial court’s decision.  But in China, under Article 12, it’s not enough that the issue is raised and overruled, the confession must also be a basis of a conviction to require the court of the second instance (the appellate court) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the confession.

In addition to using the confession as a basis of the defendant’s conviction, the court of the first instance must also have rejected the defense’s request to conduct an investigation; in other words, the court must have found the evidence provided by the defense under Article 6 of the Regulations insufficient to switch the burden of proof to the prosecutor and conduct an investigation under Article 7 of the Regulations.  But if the court in the first instance conducts the investigation and finds that the prosecutor offered enough evidence to rebut the defense’s allegation, on appeal, the court in the second instance is not required to re-investigate the issue of the legality of the defendant’s confession.  Given the loosey-goosey parameters of the evidence required of the prosecutor under Article 7, the trial finding the prosecutor’s evidence sufficient is likely.

Article 12 mandates that court of the second instance conduct an investigation if the three elements found in Article 12 are met.  But there is nothing in Article 12 that forbids the court of the second instance to investigate the allegations of illegality if less than all three of the elements of Article 12 are present; there is just nothing that requires it.  In fact, CPL Article 186 gives the appellate court the power to reexamine all issues in a case, even if outside the scope of the appeal or protest.  So ultimately, it is within the power of the court in the second instance to conduct an investigation concerning a defendant’s confession, regardless of the elements of Article 12.

  • What about cases outside of the formal criminal justice system? Flora Sapio, an expert in Chinese criminal law, noted in her analysis of the new regulations that the Regulations apply only to formal criminal cases; the Regulations offer no protection to individuals in criminal-like situations, such as Re-Education Through Labor (RETL) and drug rehabilitation, both administrative cases, not criminal ones.  The new regulations offer no protection to individuals being tried in these areas of law.

The “Regulations on the Exclusion of Illegally Obtained Evidence in Criminal Cases” were drafted in order to better implement the Chinese Criminal Law’s prohibition against torture of suspects.  But ironically, the Regulations themselves are relatively vague and their strength will only be determined through their implementation.  If defense counsel does not raise the issue of an illegally-obtained confession (with CL Article 306 defense counsel has the incentive not to protest the confession as discussed in the previous post), or if the court does not give greater life to Articles 6, 7 and 12, then the Regulations will have little impact.  But given that there are some in the legal field that are working hard to provide for greater justice and rule of law in the Chinese criminal justice system, there is hope that perhaps something can happen with these Regulations.  A small hope, but hope nonetheless.

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