More hoops for defamation charges

09:04, August 09, 2010      

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Prosecutors will have to obtain approval from a higher-level procuratorate before they order arrest warrants for suspects accused of defamation, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), the highest prosecution authority of the country, said on Saturday.

The move came only days after police in Suichang county in East China's Zhejiang province canceled a warrant for Qiu Ziming, a reporter from the Beijing-based Economic Observer, who was accused of defamation by a publicly listed company.

The quality of handling criminal cases is the "lifeline" of the work in investigating, supervising and examining police applications to arrest persons implicated in a crime, according to a statement issued by the SPP.

To issue low-quality or incorrect arrest warrants not only violates people's legitimate rights, but also severely undermines the credibility of prosecuting authorities and tarnishes the image of the Communist Party of China and the government, it said.

"We should accurately define the limit between defamation and non-defamation cases and should not consider criticism, accusation or even radical speeches and behaviors to individual officials as defamation," the SPP said.

China's Criminal Procedural Law delegates different responsibilities to the three branches of the justice system - the courts, the prosecutors and the police.

Before formally issuing an arrest warrant, prosecutors are required to examine police applications and investigations.

In Qiu's case, the reporter was wanted by the police of Suichang after he published a series of articles revealing insider trading at a local, listed company - Kan Specialty Material Co, Ltd (Kan).

The company then accused Qiu of defaming the company by reporting fabricated stories, and looked for help from the local police of Suichang.

However, the public security bureau of Lishui city, which has higher authority than the Suichang police, ordered the county's public security bureau to cancel the warrant for Qiu after a review found the warrant failed to meet statutory requirements.

In another case in February, Chen Yonggang, a Hubei resident, kept questioning the local government in an online forum claiming it was in collusion with profiteers and spending huge sums of money on projects to boost its image. He then reported the case to the Central Discipline Inspection Commission.

Later, Chen was arrested by police of Yunxi county in Shiyan city of Hubei province, and was then detained for eight days.

On March 9, the Shiyan Public Security Bureau announced on its website that after a review they decided to withdraw the detention decision, and ordered the Yunxi police to publicly apologize to him.

Xu Yongjun, a press officer with the people's procuratorate of Haidian district of Beijing, explained that for the defamation cases handled by police and prosecutors, the prosecuting department should review and make a decision whether to approve the arrest in seven days after police make the application.

"With the SPP's new guideline, it's conducive to the prosecuting departments to unify the charging standards on similar cases, and effectively resist in the interfering right by the local police and prosecuting department," he said.

Hu Xianzhi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the public has the right to criticize and supervise the government.

"Driven by their own interests, some officials may accuse the critics of slander to cover up their corruption and take revenge."

Xinhua contributed to this story.

By Zhang Yan, China Daily

(Editor:梁军)

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