III. Judicial Work in Safeguarding
Human Rights

In recent years China has promulgated and put into effect the Police Law, the Public Procurators Law, the Judges Law, the Prison Law and a series of other laws. In addition, many other measures have been taken to further strengthen judicial work in safeguarding human rights.

"People's police work for the people." This is a popular saying among the Chinese people. In order to standardize the conduct of the people's police in safeguarding human rights, China promulgated and implemented the Police Law in February 1995. It stipulates that the police enforce the law strictly to effectively safeguard the security of the people and give timely help and assistance to citizens whose personal safety and that of their property are infringed upon; it strictly forbids the police to unlawfully deprive citizens of or curtail their freedom of person; the police, while performing their duties, must accept the supervision of society and its citizens; citizens have the right to report to the department concerned and bring a charge against police who have acted against the law and discipline. As a result of implementing the law, relations between the police and the people have become closer and the departments concerned have received fewer accusatory letters and more commendatory letters. China today has 862,752 police, accounting for 7.4 persons per 10,000 of the total population, much lower than the figure of 20 persons per 10,000 in some major Western countries.

The Public Procurators Law and the Judges Law were promulgated in February 1995 and went into force in July of the same year. These two laws stipulate that public procurators and judges have the right, according to law, to independently exercise procuratorial power and judicial authority without interference from any administrative organs, social communities and individuals; they must base themselves on fact, take law as the criterion, handle a case impartially and be honest in performing their official duties in all judicial activities. These principles, set in the past, are now further standardized, specified and implemented more strictly. The law-enforcement level of the court and procuratorate has been raised remarkably.

The rapid development of the ranks of Chinese lawyers in recent years has reinforced the judicial guarantee of human rights. By the end of 1994 there were 83,619 lawyers in the country, almost double the 1990 figure and exceeding the target of 75,000 planned for 1995. There are now 6,419 law offices, an increase of 25 percent over the figure for 1993. Some foreign law firms have been allowed to set up agencies or offices in China. Presently Chinese lawyers are busy providing society with legal assistance. Legal assistance funds have been established in Beijing and other places, and legal assistance centers have been set up in Shanghai and Guangzhou to answer questions concerning the law from citizens and provide them with other legal services.

China is a country with a relatively low crime rate. At the end of 1994 China's prisons had a total of 1.286 million prisoners, or 10.7 persons per 10,000 of China's total population, which is much lower than the figure of 56.5 persons per 10,000 in some Western developed countries.

China's criminal law has set clear demarcations between crime and non-crime. Only those who have violated state law are dealt with according to law. Included in China's criminal law are crimes of counterrevolution, which refer to crimes that endanger state security and aim at overthrowing the political power of the country, namely, acts with the subjective goal of overthrowing the political power of the country and acts that objectively endanger state security. Those who hold differing political views, but have committed no act endangering state security, have committed no crime.

Following the principle of combining punishment with reform and education with labor, Chinese prisons aim at reforming criminals and turning them into law-abiding citizens. The chief means to achieve this goal is education, including education in law, ethics, culture and technology. Meanwhile, prisoners are organized to participate in whatever labor they are capable of.

China protects, according to law, those rights of the prisoners that have not been taken away or curtailed. In December 1994 China promulgated and put into force the Prison Law, 20 of whose 78 articles are related to the protection of prisoners' rights. Article 7 in the General Provisions states clearly: "Prisoners have the right of immunity from insult to their dignity and from infringement on their personal security and legal property; they have the right of defense and the right of appeal, complaint and accusation as well as other rights that have not been taken away or curtailed by law." The Prison Law also stipulates specifically that prisoners have the right of immunity from corporal punishment and abuses, the right of appeal, the right of communication, the right of meeting visiting family members and relatives, the right to education, the right to rest, the right to receive remuneration for work, the right to labor protection and labor insurance, and the right to receive medical treatment; they enjoy equal rights with other citizens upon their release after completing their sentence term. In order to safeguard the proper rights of prisoners, the Prison Law sets strict and concrete demands on prison police. Article 14 lists all the offenses against the law that are prohibited while prison police perform their duties. Standardization of the conduct of prison police prevents infringement on the proper rights of prisoners.

China opposes the practice of forcing confessions and giving credence to them and strictly prohibits the use of cruel punishment in every link of the judicial work; it has adopted a series of laws in this regard. In 1988 China formally acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Chinese procuratorial organs have set up special offices and stationed special personnel in prisons and detention houses to inspect and supervise as to whether prisoners are subject to cruel punishment or other abuses. Once such a case is found, it is investigated and seriously dealt with. In 1994 Chinese procuratorial organs placed 409 cases of extortion of confession on file for investigation and prosecution, and completed the investigation of 398 cases. Public security officers, police and other people involved were punished, including meting out the death sentence.

China has achieved remarkable results in reforming criminals. In 1994 over 210,000 prisoners received graduation and completion of study certificates in culture and techniques from the special schools run by prisons. In the same year 282,000 prisoners were granted reduction of sentence terms and release on provisional parole, accounting for 21.96 percent of the total prisoners. In 1994 the national reconviction rate remained between 6 and 8 percent, a very low rate compared to that of other countries in the world. The reconviction rate in some Western countries stands between 20 and 30 percent, and sometimes as high as over 50 percent.