China's chief justice regrets wrongful convictions

China's chief justice regrets wrongful convictions
Zhou Qiang, president of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC), delivers the work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) to the national legislature at the ongoing annual sessionat the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 12, 2015.

China's Chief Justice Zhou Qiang on Thursday expressed self-reproach for wrongful convictions and urged fellow judges to learn from them.

"We deeply reproach ourselves for letting wrongful convictions happen. Courts of all levels should learn a serious lesson from these cases," said Zhou, when delivering the work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) to the national legislature at the ongoing annual session.

The SPC will improve the mechanism to effectively prevent and correct wrongful convictions, he said.

In 2014, courts nationwide reheard 1,317 cases and corrected a number of wrongful ones, according to Zhou's report.

One of the high-profile wrongful convictions was a rape-murder case in 1996 by an Inner Mongolian court, in which an 18-year-old man named Huugjilt was convicted and executed. And 18 years later in December 2014, he was acquitted of the crimes.

The higher court of Inner Mongolia is investigating those responsible for Huugjilt's case and will hold them accountable, Zhou said.

Huugjilt was found guilty of raping and murdering a woman in a public toilet in Hohhot on April 9, 1996. He was convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death on May 23. Just 18 days later, June 10, he was executed.

However, since his sentence, another alleged serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the murder after he was arrested in 2005.

The court rescinded the previous ruling on the grounds that Huugjilt's confession on how he committed the crime contradicted with the victim's postmortem report. In addition, his account of the woman he "murdered", didn't match with the victim, a young woman surnamed Yang, including the appearance and accent.

Detectives working in the Hohhot public security bureau at the time admitted that during the campaign their work performance was rated by an annual quota on how many criminal cases they uncovered. They were "eager to wind up a case, and the use of illegal punishment and inducement on suspects existed in case investigations."

Under the circumstances, the swift settlement on Huugjilt's case was approved by the higher court despite the fact evidence was "questionable or inadequate," according to the retrial.

Following are highlights of Zhou's report:

What to do in 2015

-- The SPC will put up a serious fight against crimes harming national security and social stability, including terrorism and illegal cults.

-- The SPC will step up the efforts against corruption and maintain a zero-tolerance policy on embezzlement, bribery and breach of duty.

-- The SPC will properly handle disputes occurring in business spheres, including international trades, intellectual properties, Internet finance, maritime economy and rural land reform, to promote the "new normal" for China's economic development.

--The SPC will improve its information sharing platform, to make public its trial procedures, written judgments and enforcement information.

--The SPC will make it more convenient and efficient for people to seek legal services for court decisions, and resolutely prevent and correct wrongful convictions. SPC will strengthen legal aid for state compensation, to guarantee that people can exercise their rights to claim compensation according to law.

Work in 2014

Terrorism, separatism up 15 per cent

Chinese courts handled 558 cases related to separatism and terrorism, an increase of 14.8 per cent year-on-year.

A total of 712 criminals involved in these cases, including the case in which a jeep crashed into people in Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on October 28, and the terrorist attack in a railway station in Kunming, were convicted and punished, a rise of 13.3 per cent year-on-year.

Court acquits, rectifies mistakes

In 2014, courts acquitted 518 defendants of public prosecution and 260 defendants of private prosecution. Moreover, there were 1,317 revisions of criminal cases to rectify past mistakes.

One of the high-profile wrongful convictions was a rape-murder case in 1996 by an Inner Mongolian court, in which an 18-year-old man named Huugjilt was convicted and executed. And 18 years later in December 2014, he was acquitted of the crimes.

Anti-corruption

According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), prosecutors probed 3,664 cases of graft, bribery and embezzlement of public funds involving more than 1 million yuan ($164,000 ) last year. A total of 4,040 public servants at county level and above, including 589 at city level, were investigated.

A total of 55,101 people were investigated for duty-related crimes in 41,487 cases, an annual increase of 7.4 per cent in the number of people, according to the report.

Prosecutors handled serious cases of 28 officials at and above provincial or ministerial levels, including Zhou Yongkang and Xu Caihou in accordance with the law last year, according to the report.

In addition, 7,827 bribers were prosecuted for criminal offences, up 37.9 per cent from the previous year.

The work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) showed that Chinese courts in 2014 convicted and punished 44,000 criminals in 31,000 cases of embezzlement and bribery, including severe cases such as Liu Tienan and Li Daqiu.

A total of 2,394 people were convicted for offering bribes last year, up 12.1 per cent from the previous year.

Fox Hunt

China's judicial authorities on Thursday pledged to intensify its international manhunt for corrupt officials who had fled abroad in the vain hope of escaping justice.

Secession-related cases

Country saw a 40.7-per-cent rise in the number of criminal cases that involved instigation of secessionist activities in 2014.

Cyber crimes

China will impose tough measures on cyber crimes in accordance with the law, in a bid to cleanse the Internet space.

Environmental violations

The number of criminal cases of polluters in China increased by 8.5 times in 2014.

Courts nationwide closed about 16,000 criminal cases related to environmental violations.

Civil cases about damage of pollution increased by 51 per cent year on year, as 3,331 cases related to environment issues were closed by courts nationwide.

About 25,800 people were charged with crimes such as damaging the environment, illegal logging and illegal farming on grassland.

About 1,200 officials from environment departments were prosecuted for corruption.

Protecting women and children

Chinese courts probed 1,048 cases of abduction of women and children and the sexual assault of minors in 2014, pledging to strengthen their efforts.

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