I. China's Basic Principles of
Criminal Reform

People can be reformed. The great majority of criminals can also be reformed. Turning minuses into pluses and changing criminals into people who are useful to society are in conformity with the great Marxist ideal of liberating all of mankind. Consistent with this understanding, China does not simply punish criminals; instead it emphasizes reform and change for the better. Therefore, even in the case of criminals who have committed serious offenses, China has always adhered to its laws and policies, which call for a minimum number of executions.

In the actual practice of criminal reform, China pays close attention to implementing the principles of humanitarianism. Criminals are not only provided with proper living conditions, but their human dignity is also respected. Humiliating of prisoners is forbidden. Chinese law clearly stipulates that criminals are to be provided with a humane level of material comfort during their prison terms and that the staff in prisons and reform-through-labour institutions must handle criminals in a civilized manner.

China strictly protects the due rights of criminals. Chinese law stipulates the various civil rights not restricted by law to which a criminal is entitled during a prison term. There are specific legal provisions concerning the rights a criminal must enjoy during the entire process from initial detention to release after serving the sentence. Chinese law forbids any maltreatment of prisoners by the prison staff and prisoners have the right to file charges according to the law. The law clearly stipulates criminal sanctions for any prison staff guilty of dereliction of duty.

In the reform of criminals, China operates on the principle that education is very important, attaching great importance to physical labour in addition to legal, moral, cultural and technical education to encourage criminals to stop looking at time in prison as a forced prison term and think more in terms of conscientious reform, to give up the idea of obtaining personal gain through criminal means, to form the habit of respecting other people and society in general, and to obtain the work skills needed for later employment so that they may become law-abiding citizens.

China attaches great importance to helping criminals change by means of persuasion. Therefore, China brings the efforts of specialized state organs and society together to reform criminals. Reforming criminals is mainly the responsibility of state organs in charge of reform-through-labour programmes and is carried out at prisons and reform- through-labour institutions. At the same time, under China's socialist system, reform of criminals is the common concern of society and receives energetic support from the public. Every sector and level of society supports and helps coordinate this work through the entire process of criminal reform, including resettlement and employment after a criminal has served his term and is released from prison.

Due to the implementation of the above-mentioned principles, China has met with great success in criminal reform.

--- China has successfully reformed war criminals. It did not use capital punishment on any of the Japanese war criminals, the war criminals of the puppet Manchuria regime, the Kuomintang war criminals or on the last emperor of the feudal Qing Dynasty. After their reform, over one thousand Japanese war criminals received lenient treatment and were returned to Japan. Most of them have taken an active part in anti-war activities, supporting peace and promoting Sino-Japanese friendship. After receiving special pardons and being released, the war criminals associated with the puppet Manchuria regime and the Kuomintang war criminals, including the last Qing Emperor, Aisin Giorro Pu Yi, became law-abiding citizens and did their best to work for the good of the country and the people.

--- China's rate of recidivism is among the lowest in the world. For many years, it has been around 6% to 8%. In contrast, the rate of recidivism in some developed western countries is around 20% or 30% with some going as high as 50%, 60% and more.

--- About 400,000 criminal cases are brought to trial every year in China. The country's crime incidence rate among the population is about 2 per thousand per year, which is among the lowest in the world.

The rate of recidivism and the crime rate are the main criteria for judging the effectiveness of a country's efforts to reform criminals. China's success in the reform of criminals proves that its principles and policies, as well as its laws and system are correct for handling the reform of criminals.

China is a developing country and the conditions and environment for criminal reform in China are still restricted by its level of economic and social development. With progress in its socialist modernization drive and constant improvement in its legal system, the country's efforts to reform criminals will reach new heights of success.