Law-related Wechat public accounts (2017 version) (1)

logoI’ve posted several times about law-related Wechat (微信) public accounts.  They are an important resource for those trying to understand Chinese legal developments (or their absence) and their implications or impact. For the observer, it enables us to learn about new issues (or aspects of issues) that we didn’t know existed, and (depending on the topic), hear viewpoints other than the official one, or at least read hints of dissenting views. Those with the Wechat app on their smartphone can subscribe to these public accounts but it is also possible to find some these articles through an internet search.  Note that the “Mr. Yong” about whom I wrote in 2016 still lurks on Wechat, so articles published may disappear.

Below is an incomplete guide to some useful law-related Wechat public accounts–oriented to my own interests, to be followed up when time permits.  Please contact me through the comment function or by email with additional suggestions.

Official accounts

As I’ve written before Party/government authorities use Wechat public accounts to reach out to a public that is moving away from traditional media to their smartphones. SPC policy is encouraging courts to do so.  There is some but not complete overlap between articles that appear on an institution’s website and Wechat account. There is complete overlap when more political matters are involved. Even some articles published on institutional public accounts have a “netizen” tone and popular netizen slang and images, such as this one from the Qianhai Court public account.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 9.13.10 AM

You’re right, today the little editor wants to tell everyone A BIG! THING! about the Qianhai Court!

Some large institutions (Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP)), have affiliated research, publishing and educational institutions, with each having a Wechat public accounts under its auspices. There is some overlap in articles, but others are unique to the Wechat account.

The SPC has its official account: Wechat ID: ch_zgrmfy; People’s Court Daily: Wechat ID: renminfayuanbao; SPC’s research institute, The Institute for Applied Jurisprudence, Wechat ID: fayansuo; National Judicial College’s Wechat ID:falvshiyongzazhi (Wechat version of their magazine, Application of Law (法律适用) & account of its case research institute (司法案例研究院), Wechat ID: sifalyjy.  There is also an account on diversified dispute resolution, linked to the Institute for Applied Jurisprudence: 多元化纠纷解决机制 (SIFAADR). The electronic database Faxin (法信) affiliated with People’s Court Press (which itself has a Wechat account: fayuanchubanshe) also has a Wechat account, Legal_information, as do the journals 中国审判  (Id: zhongguoshenpan) and人民司法 (renminsifa). (This list is incomplete).

Officially approved accounts but not official

Some individuals affiliated with legal institutions have Wechat public accounts (presumably with the approval of their institutional leaders), among them: account of a Pudong New area judge, 法眼观察 (fygc20140416)–here is a recent article on the large number of cases in his and 19 other local courts; 法影斑斓 , account of He Fan, judge in the judicial reform office of the SPC, Wechat ID: funnylaw1978; CU检说法 (CU-JIAN), account of a local prosecutor (see an article on prosecutor’s assistants) 稻花蛙声(paddyfrog), recent article on judicial reform as seen from the bottom of the judicial food chain;法治昌明 (fazhichaming), with a recent article on the toxic system of performance appraisals.

Supervision Commission

The two must read accounts for those trying to understand what is happening with the supervision commission pilots:监察委前沿 (jianchaweiqy)and反腐先锋 (recent article on the framework for the supervision commissions published here)

Others, many previously recommended

  • Arbitration:  Wechat ID: cnarb1, account of Lin Yifei, mentioned in an earlier blogpost.  I highly recommend it to both practitioners and others interested in arbitration.
  • Labor law:Wechat ID: laodongfaku (劳动法库) (with over 200,000 followers; Wechat ID: ldfview (子非鱼说劳动法);
  • Civil law 海坛特哥 (haitanlegal), account of Chen Te, formerly of the Beijing Higher People’s Court, now a lawyer (高衫legal) [his earlier posts focused on medical law], Wechat ID: gaoshanlegal;  审判研究, Wechat ID: spyjweixin; 法客帝国, Wechat ID: Empirelawyers; 审判研究, Wechat ID: msspck.
  • Criminal law: 辩护人Defender (bianhuren_net); 辩护园地 (zrflawyer); 刑事实务, Wechat ID: xingshishiwu; 刑事审判参考 Wechat ID: criminailaw;说刑品案 (xingshishenpan)
  • International law: Wechat ID: ciil 2015 国际法促进中心
  • IP law–知产力 (zhichanli); 知识产权那点事, Wechat ID: IPR888888.
  • Aggregators–智和法律新媒体, Wechat ID: zhihedongfang; 法律博客, Wechat ID: falvboke,  法律读品, Wechat ID: lawread.

 

 

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Asset recovery, Chinese style

unnamedThe Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and Procuratorate (SPP) issued their first judicial interpretation of 2017, Provisions on Several Questions Concerning the Application of the Procedure of Confiscating Illegal Gains in Cases Where the Criminal Suspects or Defendants Absconded or Died (Asset Recovery Interpretation). It went into effect on 5 January. It is possible that the timing is related to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection annual conference.

It is an important piece of quasi-legislation enabling the Chinese authorities to recover assets that are the proceeds of corruption and other crimes within China and internationally, where the criminal suspect or defendant has absconded, left the jurisdiction, or died.   If your jurisdiction is one that already has in place treaty arrangements with China that will enable the Chinese authorities to seek recovery of assets, the interpretation bears close review.   Canada, for example, has supplemented its criminal judicial assistance treaty with a specialized asset recovery agreement.

Background

The recovery and forfeiture of the proceeds of corruption and other crimes has become a priority issue because the anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping has made it so.  Although the Criminal Procedure Law was amended in 2012 to enable the authorities to confiscate assets of persons who had or were suspected of committing certain major crimes (see Articles 280-283), in the view of the SPP and SPC, the Asset Recovery Interpretation was needed because the law itself was inadequate. The drafters identified four issues:

  1. the range of crimes to which asset recovery could be applied was too narrow;
  2. major disagreements existed concerning procedures and standards of evidence;
  3. local authorities lacked experience with asset recovery;
  4. procedures and relative responsibilities of different authorities were unclear, making it difficult when negotiating with foreign governments.

The actual drafting of the Asset Recovery Interpretation began shortly after the 4th Plenum and before the Skynet operation was launched.The drafting of this interpretation was a high-profile project for the two institutions. The SPP and SPC worked with the CCDI,  the Central Political-Legal Committee, National People’s Congress Legislative Affairs Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, and other authorities to produce a draft a practicable system that could be used when negotiating with foreign countries, meet the policy targets of the Party, and contain legal standards specific enough for the procuratorate and courts.

The Asset Recovery Interpretation also draws on the interactions the SPP and SPC have had as part of multi-institutional dialogues on the recovery of the proceeds of corruption with a variety of multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, as well as bilateral interactions such as with the United States government, for example, through the US-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation.

The drafting of the Asset Recovery Interpretation was flagged in the Fourth Plenum Decision:

Strengthen international cooperation on anti-corruption, expand strength to pursue stolen goods and fugitives overseas, as well as for repatriation and extradition.

Asset recovery through the courts was included in the SPC’s 4th Five Year Plan:

16. Standardize judicial procedures for disposing of assets involved in a case.Clarify the standards, scope, and procedures for people’s courts’ disposition of property involved in the case. Further standardize judicial procedures in criminal, civil and administrative cases for sealing, seizing, freezing and handling of assets involved in a case.

…expand the scope covered by regional and international judicial assistance. Promote the drafting of a Judicial Assistance Law in Criminal Matters.

The drafting of the interpretation was the responsibility of the #2 Criminal Division of the SPC and the Law and Policy Research Office of the SPP.

 Some important provisions

This blogpost cannot provide a comprehensive description of the interpretation which expands/further details the procedures set out in Articles 280-283 of the Criminal Procedure Law and related law, but notes the following provisions.

1. The Asset Recovery Interpretation expands the scope of the crimes to which asset recovery applies. Article 280 of the Criminal Procedure Law authorizes a people’s procuratorate to apply to a court  for confiscation of illegal gains and other property related to the case in serious crimes (重大犯罪案件) such as corruption, bribery or terrorist activities where the criminal suspects or defendants have absconded and have not been found one year after the public arrest warrants were issued, or where the criminal suspects or defendants have died.

Article 1 of the interpretation expands the term “such as” (等) by specifying that confiscation can be applied to the following crimes among others:

  1.  Corruption; embezzlement of public funds; possessing huge amounts of property from unknown sources; concealing overseas savings; privately dividing state-owned assets; privately dividing assets that had been confiscated;
  2. Bribe-taking; exploiting influence to take bribes; bribery by an individual or entity; giving bribes to persons with influence; introducing bribery;
  3. Organizing, leading, or participating in terrorist organizations; helping terrorist organizations, preparing to carry out terrorist activities; advocating terrorism or extremism, and incitement of carrying out of terrorist activities; using extremism to sabotage the enforcement of laws; forcing others to wear clothing and signs that advocate terrorism or extremism; illegally possessing articles that advocate terrorism or extremism;
  4. Endangering state security; smuggling; money laundering, financial fraud; mafia-type organizations, and drugs.
  5. Telecommunications and internet fraud.

As many others have written in other contexts, some of the crimes listed above have been over-broadly applied in China–some to persons who disagree with the government and others to private entrepreneurs.

Language in extradition treaties is flexible enough to enable foreign governments to refuse to extradite or assist in the recovery of assets from persons that the host government considers a political dissident rather than a criminal. However, those persons can anticipate that their domestic assets may be the subject of confiscation procedures.

2. The definition of assets of crime draws on relevant language in the UN Corruption Convention on proceeds of crime, and so include proceeds of crime that have been transformed or converted, in part or in full, into other property, as well of proceeds of crime have been intermingled with property acquired from legitimate sources.

3.The Asset Recovery Interpretation sets out needed details in the procedure by which assets can be confiscated, including detailing the evidence the procuratorate has to provide to a court in the application for confiscation, matters to be set out in the notice issued by a court that accepts the application; persons to whom the notice should be serviced and media outlets where the notice should be published.  (Under Article 281 of the Criminal Procedure Law, the notice concerning the application needs to be in effect for six months.)

Under Article 281, close relatives and interested parties (and their representatives) can apply to attend the court hearing at which the confiscation of assets application is reviewed, but “interested parties” had not been defined, nor had the details of how the first instance and appeal procedures were to be conducted.

4.  The Asset Recovery Interpretation details the procedures for seeking international cooperation in the recovery of assets, including the type of order the lower court should issue and documentation that the lower court must prepare.  The bundle of documentation must be reported up to the SPC and after the SPC reviews it, the SPC prepares a request letter, the contents of which are specified in the interpretation.  These request letters generally are transferred abroad via the Ministry of Justice, which is usually designated the competent national authority under treaty or convention arrangements.

Next steps

The SPC anticipates that the Asset Recovery Interpretation will lead to an increase in cases, but are aware these issues and procedures are new to the lower courts, so it is requiring lower courts to designate certain judges to hear these cases and for these judges to undergo training on the Asset Recovery Interpretation and related issues.

The SPC calls on cooperation with related departments on the recovery of proceeds of crime from abroad, saying that it cannot fight the battle alone. (不能依靠某一个部门单兵作战).

Foreign jurisdictions can anticipate an increase in requests from China and it is likely that the mainland will request that the Hong Kong authorities negotiate a related arrangement. It will raise further concerns for those former Chinese officials accused of the crimes described above living in jurisdictions with an extradition or mutual legal assistance in criminal matters treaty. For lawyers in China and abroad, it represents a new practice opportunity.

 

 

Supreme People’s Court tweaks capital punishment review procedure

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 3.28.09 PMSeveral days ago, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) issued the brief judicial interpretation, translated below:

Supreme People’s Court

Reply Concerning issues related to the Application of Article 225 (para 2) of the Criminal Procedure Law

Approved by the 1686th meeting of the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court, in effect from 24 June 2016

Fa Yi(2016) #13

To the Henan Higher People’s Court:

We have received your request for instructions concerning the application of Article 225(2) of the Criminal Procedure. After consideration, we respond as follows:

I.  For cases remanded to the second instance people’s court for retrial by the Supreme People’s Court, on the basis of “People’s Republic of China Criminal Procedure Law” Article 239 (2) [if the Supreme People’ s Court disapproves the capital punishment sentence, it may remand the case for retrial or revise the sentence] and Article 353 of the Interpretation of the “Supreme People’s Court on the application of the People’s Republic of China Criminal Procedure Law [where the Supreme People’s Court issues a ruling on non-approval of the death penalty sentenced under a case, it may remand the case to the people’s court of second instance or the people’s court of first instance for retrial, depending on the actual circumstances of the case…], having ruled not to approve the death penalty,and  regardless of whether the people’s court of second instance had previously sent the case back to the first instance court on the grounds that original judgment’s facts were unclear or evidence was insufficient; in principle, it must not be sent back to the original first instance court for retrial; if there are special circumstances requiring the case to be sent back to the first instance court for a retrial, it must be submitted to the Supreme Court for approval.

II. in cases where the Supreme People’s Court had ruled to disapprove the death penalty and remanded the case to the second instance people’s court for retrial, and the second instance people’s court had remanded the case to the first instance court according to special circumstance, after the first instance court has issued its judgment and the defendant has appealed or the people’s procuratorate has made a protest, the second instance people’s court should issue a judgment or ruling according to law, and must not send the case back for re-trial, according to the specifics of the case, which had sent the case to the first instance court for retrial.

So replied.

_________________________________________________________

What is this and what does this mean?

This is a judicial interpretation by the SPC in the form of a reply, as explained here.  It is a reply (批复) to a “request for instructions” from a lower court relating to an issue of general application in a specific case.  The Henan Higher People’s Court had submitted a request for instructions, likely with two or more views on the issue, but the lower court’s request is not publicly available.  It is likely that practice among provincial courts had been inconsistent, and therefore the SPC is harmonizing judicial practice through this reply.  As required by the SPC’s  regulations on judicial interpretations, it must be approved by the SPC’s judicial committee as a judicial interpretation.

This gives further details to the SPC’s capital review procedures, requiring second instance (generally provincial level courts) to hear retrials of cases remanded by the SPC and not instructing those courts not send cases back to the first instance court for retrial.  It also requires the second instance court to rule on a defendant’s appeal or procuratorate’s protest and not remand the case back to the first instance court, expediting the final consideration of these cases and limiting the number of remands of these cases.

Is this a positive development for the protection of the rights of the defendants (the defendants in the typical drugs cases announced by the SPC recently were mostly peasants), by requiring the second instance court to hear these cases, away from the public pressure where the crime occurred?  In a 2013 article, criminal defense lawyer Sun Zhongwei described the pressure on a local first and second instance court is under from the victim’s family and the local Party committee and government, and how the institutions use delay and remanding the case to the procuratorate and public security for additional investigation to avoid making difficult decisions that will alienate local authorities.What has the role of defense counsel been in these cases?  Have most defendants been advised by counsel? Was the delay in final resolution in these cases an issue discussed by the Central Political Legal Committee?

What was the rationale for issuing this interpretation at this time?  Is it a measure to promote the efficiency of the courts, by expediting finality in criminal punishment, so that the courts can announce in a timely manner their crime fighting accomplishments and typical cases?A headline on one of the SPC’s websites  reporting on 30% increase in drugs crime convictions in the provincial level courts may indicate which is valued more–“People’s courts across the country cracked down hard on drug crime.”

Or is it linked to planned reforms to the criminal justice system and improvements to the legal aid system for criminal defendants approved by Xi Jinping and other top leaders on 27 June?

Accessing Chinese criminal law legal developments via Wechat (updated)

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defense counsel in a Beijing court

This brief blogpost, updated with content on the 18 April judicial interpretation on corruption offenses, supplements my earlier blogpost on legal Wechat public accounts.

Defender (辩护人), one of the leading criminal law Wechat public accounts recently published a list of the most widely read Wechat criminal law Wechat public accounts with user statistics (as of 15 April).

Given that criminal law is more sensitive that commercial law in China, posts that relate to more difficult topics sometimes disappear.

Some of the most useful posts in recent days relate to the 18 April judicial interpretation on corruption offenses.  Several posts package the judicial interpretation together with the statement by officials from the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and Procuratorate (SPP)–that statement gives important background information about the legislative history and intent of the drafters. Related posts put the interpretation into chart form, providing easy reference to all participants in the criminal justice system.  As might be expected, more sensitive analyses may disappear, such as this one An analysis  by Si Weijiang, a well known defense lawyer. A PDF version can be found here, so that readers may judge for themselves (斯伟江 • 迟来量刑标准调整:反腐高压下的调整).

Within the past week, this one was published, setting out the legal basis and jurisdiction of departments of the public security authorities to open a file (立案) and begin an investigation.  One of the departments focuses on anti terrorism (反恐怖部门), authorized to open a file for seven different crimes.

In March of this year, at the “Two Meetings,” Zhu Lieyu spoke out in favor of removing detention houses (where pre-trial suspects are held), from the jurisdiction of the public security authorities. Recent posts on some of these criminal law public accounts include one listing the titles, location, and telephone numbers of  detention houses in Zhejiang Province, and an earlier one in Defender with an open letter from 37 Yunnan lawyers drawing attention to the poor conditions in several detention houses in Kunming for defense counsel to meet with clients.

Other posts call attention to cases or categories of cases that might otherwise escape public attention, such as Chen Yichao, a Gansu company executive accused of corruption, and tried in recent days, whose assets were seized by the authorities and transferred to the personal accounts of the procuratorate and Party disciplinary officials investigating his case (in violation of relevant regulations) (and an analogous case from Anhui) as well as an article from a court website questioning the punishment of petitioners for extorting the government, and a judgment by the Jiangsu Higher People’s Court in re-trial proceedings overturning the conviction of a petitioner for extortion.  Another post that must be read is this one, about (former) officials from the justice system who have been tortured.

Another recent post lists embezzlement cases decided since Criminal Law Amendment (9) became effective, with the court, amount embezzled, and sentence.

For the many persons inside and outside of China who are trying to understand China’s anti-corruption system, these public accounts provide valuable information on what happens as cases go from Party disciplinary investigation to the procuratorate to court, and the arguments defense lawyers are making on behalf of their clients,including the exclusion of evidence obtained by torture.

 

Big data from the Supreme People’s Court

Now that President Zhou Qiang’s report has been well received by National People’s Court delegates, one of the issues to which the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has turned its attention is big data.  Recently, the SPC released a report with “big data.” The charts below are from two versions of that report.  The press release accompanying this report indicated that the SPC will release more data more periodically.The SPC has traditionally been very stingy with the release of data, and certain data that interest persons outside the court system are classified as state secrets. SPC personnel have also discussed their rationale for reviewing and releasing more data, but that will be addressed later.

Because of the large amount of data in the report, it will be reviewed in several blogposts.

Chinese courts hear a huge number of civil cases

The pie chart sets out first instance cases in the courts, both the civilian and military courts.  There were 20% more first instance cases in the courts in 2015 than 2014, almost 11.5 million.  Almost 90% (88.6%) of them were civil/commercial cases, with slightly under 10% criminal cases (9.84%).  Less than 2% of cases were administrative cases.

Ten year trends

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Trends over the last 10 years of cases resolved, by all courts, in units of 10,000.

Criminal cases

The courts accepted 1,126,748 first instance criminal cases, up 8.29%, and concluded 1,099,205 of them,up 7.45%, involving 1,232,695 defendants, up 4.06%。The preponderance of those cases were relatively minor crimes.  
As the pie chart below illustrates, sentences imposing five years and more in prison, death sentences or suspended death sentences were imposed on 115,464, accounting for 9.37% of those convicted. Close to half (43.96%) , or 541,913 were sentenced to prison terms of less than five years, while 45.12% (556,259)were either given suspended sentences or control, or other minor punishments.  A tiny percentage were exempted from criminal punishment (18,020 persons), accounting for 1.46%, while a miniscule number (1039) (0.08%)were declared not guilty.  

The two pie charts below set out out the criminal cases by type, omitting the more sensitive types and showing a drop in most types of crimes, with the exception of fraud and theft/robbery.

Violent crimes

The criminal courts accepted 10,187 cases involving violent crimes, down 5.81%

  1. Intentional assaults: 122,209 cases, down 3.04%;
  2. Rapes: 21, 252 cases, down 9.39%;
  3. Kidnapping: 787%, down 24.54%;
  4. Explosions: 131 cases, down 18.13%

Food, sex, drugs, and gambling crimes

Food and drug safety crimes are always a concern of the government, but enforcement activity or publicity about harsh criminal punishment may have had a positive effect on compliance.  New food and drug safety cases totaled 10,410件 down almost 10%, of which about 3000 involved the production and sale of poisonous or harmful food products, down almost 35%, while there were about 2300 cases of the production and sale of foods that failed safety standards, down about 2%.  The courts accepted less than 250 cases involving the illegal sale of personal information, down about 15%. Food safety issues in China affect people all over the world, as many articles of posted out.

It was clear from last year’s SPC’s guidance on drugs cases, discussed in this earlier blogpost, as well as articles in the press and reports by think tanks, that (illegal) drugs are an increasing problem.  The statistics are an indication of that: drugs cases accepted by the courts have risen 30.79% to 141,999件,Of those, almost 93,000 (92982) cases involved trafficking, sale, transport, and manufacturing of drugs, up 15.61%,illegal possession of drugs, 11104 cases, up 26.9%, providing premises for taking drugs, 36,530 cases, up 101.32%. These, at least the ones involving manufacturing, transport, and sale of drugs are relevant to the world outside of China, as the cheap production of illegal drugs has also moved to China, as articles in the Financial Times (China-made $5 insanity drug goes global) and the European press indicate.

The criminal courts accepted 26423  gambling cases, an increase of almost 32%, including about 19,000 cases of operating gambling premises, up 35%,

The criminal courts accepted 13,700 cases involving the sex trade, an increase of almost 11%, of which 11, 682 cases involved organizing prostitution businesses, providing premises, compelling women to become prostitutes, and acting as a pimp or madam, an increase of 7.4%.  Prostitution offenses themselves are generally punished outside of the courts.

Financial crimes

The pie chart above sets out newly accepted financial crimes:

4825 cases of illegal fundraising,  up 127% over last  year.  This crime is very much on the government agenda.  There were a much smaller number of credit card crimes–844 cases, up by almost 50%, illegal fraudulent fund raising, 1018 cases, up almost 49%, with fraud relating to loans, financial paper, financial instruments, 1284 cases, up 44%, insurance fraud, 422 cases, up 33%, credit card fraud, almost 11,800, up 12%, pyramid scheme cases, almost 1500, up by almost 31%.

The criminal courts accepted about 26,600 robbery cases, down about 16%, theft, 224,907 cases, up 4%, while fraud cases were up 8%.  (offenses subject to confirmation)

SPC’s big data

The other major issue for anyone outside the Chinese court system, Chinese or foreign, reviewing SPC data is that frequently changes in classification and criteria make it difficult to understand and analyze. Or is the thinking that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”?

Supreme People’s Court issues statistics on crimes against women and children

In honor of International Women’s Day and as evidence that the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) is doing its part, the SPC released statistics related to crimes against women and children.  This brief blogpost gives some of the highlights.

Trafficking of women and children

Trafficking of women and children is an ongoing problem in China, and it is likely that a significant number of cases do not find their way to the courts.  The statistics show a reduction in cases involving the trafficking of women and children–last year, 853 cases were resolved, in comparison to 1919 in 2010, involving 3631 persons in 2010 and 1362 in 2015.

 

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Rape cases

As in many other places in the world, women are often reluctant to bring charges of rape in China, particularly when it involves men more powerful than themselves. (Rape of men is still not a crime, according to this analysis by Jeremy Daum).  It is unknown how many of the rape cases were heard in the military courts. This analysis of cases from the SPC’s case database evidences that that the military courts have heard some.  Trends in the last three years in the number of rape cases heard in courts (cases concluded and persons sentenced):

 

Indecent assault cases

The number of convictions in indecent assault cases (the crime of using violence, coercion or other methods to act indecently against others or insult women) is on the rise. This report by a local court  suggest that those charges are sometimes used when rape cannot be proved.

 

Child molestation cases

Convictions in child molestation cases are on the rise, or at least more make it into the court system.

 

The SPC commented that the situation involving crimes against women’s and children’s rights remains grim:

  • No reduction in the number of crimes involving the sale of biological children by parents;
  • High number of cases of sexual abuse of minors, which has not gone down;
  • Many serious incidents of school violence;
  • Children left behind in rural areas are often abandoned and subject to domestic violence;
  • Specific rules are needed to implement the Domestic Violence Law and relevant sections of the Criminal Law Amendment (9);
  • Better mechanisms are needed to protect the rights of children.

Comments

Paul Schmidt, a follower of this blog, who is Counsel with Jun He Law Offices in Beijing and a former Colorado State Prosecutor, had the following comment:

This is a heart rendering issue, but the statistics provided continue to tell, what I believe, is a very interesting story about criminal prosecutions in the PRC. The basic story is this: criminal prosecutions in the PRC are rare.

Some very rough math shows what I mean. In 2014, the New York Police Department investigated 1,352 instances of rape. (See, http://www.nyc.gov) In 2014, the population of NYC was 8,500,000. In short, this works out to very roughly 1 rape investigation per every 5,000 people.

In China in 2014, the courts there handled 23,158 rape cases. China’s population was 1,367,000,000. In short, this works out to very roughly 1 rape case per every 50,000 people.

What’s going on? Is NYC 10 times more violent than the PRC? Are people in China 10 times more reluctant to report rape than in NYC? Even if we assume that New Yorkers are twice as violent and the Chinese are twice as reluctant (neither of which I actually believe to be true), this still leaves a huge gap.

The above pattern repeats itself regardless of the crime examined. Chinese crime statistics appear to be not just lower when compared to other countries – but profoundly lower. Additionally, I have seen little to indicate that such statistics are being actively manipulated (unlike, say, economic statistics). I don’t believe PRC courts are actively under reporting their cases – civil or criminal.

What mainly accounts for the gap, I believe, is that only a certain percentage of crime in the PRC is handled by the formal criminal system. A lot of crime is dealt with through administrative means or informal “mediations” adjudicated by the police between victims and perpetrators.

A retired Chinese lawyer pointed to the availability of commercial sex [however this is  also available in New York] as a reason for the small number of rape cases.  He also mentioned settlements between victims and perpetrators, mediated by the family or lawyer for the perpetrator and the victim and her family.  He suggested that the lawyer for the perpetrator will seek to convince the victim and her family that she is best off with a monetary settlement, conditioned on the victim withdrawing charges.

There is also likely a link to the performance indicators of the police and prosecutors.  Like judges, they have been evaluated based on a number of quantitative indicators, including the number of arrests and number of prosecutions.  Settlement of cases removes the risk of a case going wrong from the police and prosecutors.  It may be for a combination of these reasons that the number of rape cases reaching the courts, and rape convictions in China is relatively low.

If you have further information on this, please use the comment function.

 

 

Supreme People’s Court’s new policy on drugs

ceb176df44f7c0a32fc56771bb9ba2c9This short blogpost follows up on the recent report on the same topic in the  Diplomat.

In late May, the Supreme People’s Court issued a conference summary on drug crimes (全国法院毒品犯罪审判工作座谈会纪要) setting out further guidance to the lower courts on trying drug cases (for those diving deeper into the subject, a transcript of comments by an official of the #5 criminal division follows the text of the conference summary).

Conference summaries are what the Court entitles “normative documents” and often address new issues or areas of law in which the law is not settled.   “Conference summaries” are also a form of Communist Party/government document.  Conference summaries are not considered “judicial interpretations” and are not required to be made public.  The full text was not generally issued in the legal press but has appeared in social media. This blogpost will look further into the conference summary and what it implies.

The conference summary

A national drug crimes court conference was held in December, 2014, with delegates both from the military and civilian courts.   Although the actual number of drug cases heard in the military courts is unknown, they do occur, as indicated by a press report of a man sentenced in Anhui for selling drugs, who had previously been convicted by a military court in Lanzhou for selling drugs (and other offenses).

The Court organized the conference to ensure that the lower courts were trying drug crimes in line with the latest national policy on the matter and to harmonize lower court practice.  That national policy is set out in the first Central Committee/State Council policy document on drug crimes, issued in July, 2014, and the content appears to be sensitive enough that the full text has not been published. “Harmonizing court practice” means in  Chinese judicial parlance that judges are applying the law similarly. As explained earlier, judicial conferences are an important way of doing so. The conference summary, which was circulated among conference participants (and the Court leadership) sets out guidelines for judges on difficult issues, including the death penalty.

Death penalty

A good analysis of prior law on drugs and the death penalty can be found here. The conference summary provides guidance on how to apply the death penalty, and is consistent with the Court’s general principles on applying the death penalty–in a minority of cases and to the worst offenders.  The conference summary provides guidance in relation to three issues:

  • Trafficking of illegal drugs–the death penalty is most appropriately applied to the head of a drug enterprise, who organizes, ships illegal drugs with armed guards, hires others, etc, and executing 2 or more persons in the same case should be very carefully considered.
  • Illegal drugs supply chain–the death penalty should be applied to the worst offenders.
  • New types of drugs-meth, ice, ketamine–similarly, the death penalty should be applied to the worst offenders.

Who commits drug crimes?

According to a 2011 Court research report, the profile of those committing drug crimes is:

  • Unemployed (51% in 2011), with about 90% peasants and unemployed (this has implications for the government’s urbanization plans;
  • Greater proportion (11%) of women in comparison to other crimes;
  • Many recidivists;
  • Generally low level of education;
  • Involving high level of profits when trafficked away from border areas; and
  • Increasingly involving new types of drugs.

Comment

As Chinese people become wealthier (and the economy becomes more internationalized), drug use (and the illegal drug industry) is growing correspondingly.  As in legal goods, some illegal drug  manufacturing has moved to China.  Although last July’s high level document calls for a three year plan to control illegal drugs, it seems more likely that we will continue to see an increase in drug cases heard in the Chinese courts and capital punishment applied to the most major offenders.