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Home >> China
UPDATED: 09:32, March 16, 2007
Miranda inspires reform call
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"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

These words, taken from the United States' Miranda Warning, should be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Hollywood cop movie. However, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) is pushing to make those words a lot more meaningful to people in China by calling for China's Criminal Procedure Law to grant suspects the right of silence.

"Every suspect should have the right to remain silent during interrogation, and such a right should become lawful," said Jiang Deming.

Jiang, together with 30 other deputies, submitted a motion to the NPC's annual session to amend the Criminal Procedure Law to grant suspects the right of silence. The motion also calls for more protection for witnesses.

Jiang said the existing law requires suspects to truthfully answer investigators' questions during interrogations, which could lead to forced confessions.

"If there's no such rule, investigators will have no alibi for their misconduct," the deputy said, adding that the recent emergence of several cases in which justice had gone awry made the case for revision more urgent.

Last year, Zhao Xinjian, a farmer from Bozhou, Anhui Province, was freed after spending eight years in jail on murder charges after the real murderer confessed.

And in 2005, She Xianglin, who had spent 11 years in jail after being found guilty of killing his wife in Central China's Hubei Province, was released after the woman turned up alive. Both the victims claimed they were tortured during interrogations.

Chen Shu, another NPC deputy, said granting suspects the right of silence could also streamline China's litigation process.

"Prosecutors will make more of an effort to collect evidence instead of getting confessions," she said.

According to this year's NPC legislative agenda, the revision of the Criminal Procedure Law has been scheduled for October.

Wang Minyuan, a researcher at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who helped with the amendment of the law, told China Daily that legislators had been considering whether to make the privilege of silence legal, though it was still too early to say whether the amendment would be included.

Even if it is not, Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court, has made it clear that judges should place more emphasis on evidence.

"If we only have confession, but no other evidence, the suspect should be declared innocent," the top judge said on Wednesday while answering a question relating to the right of silence.

However, fears have emerged that if all suspects remained silent, solving some crimes could be very difficult.

In response to such concerns, Jiang said the revised Criminal Procedure Law should also compel witnesses to testify in court.

"Figures show that less than 8 percent of criminal witnesses appear in court in China," he said. "If the situation improves, it would be a great help to the prosecution."

But Jiang noted that if witnesses had to appear in court, they could demand specific stipulations or even laws to protect their rights.

Source: China Daily

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