Full Text: Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China

Human Rights
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Sunday published a white paper titled "Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China."

XinhuaUpdated: September 23, 2019

VI. Strengthening the Rule of Law for Human Rights

After the founding of the PRC, socialist rule of law was established in China to protect human rights by law. Over the past 70 years, China has established a relatively complete legal system to protect human rights. It upholds law-based governance, law-based exercise of power, and law-based government administration, and adopts a holistic approach to promote the rule of law across the nation, in government, and throughout society. To promote social fairness and justice, it has endeavored to ensure that a well-conceived approach is taken to legislation, that the law is strictly enforced, that justice is impartially administered, and that the law is observed by everyone.

Building a service-oriented government with limited powers and clear responsibilities. The state delimits administrative power in accordance with the law. China has established a principle under which administrative bodies should not take any action that is not mandated by law. It has introduced a list of well-defined government powers and a list of responsibilities, and prohibited any power not provided for by law, or any illegal use of power. In its effort to improve governance, China has accelerated the transformation of government functions, streamlining administration and delegating power to the lower levels, exercising better supervision over the market, and providing efficient services to business. The people and businesses are thus provided with better services. China has established strict procedures for administrative law enforcement and a system of benchmarks for administrative discretion, with unified standards in law enforcement and rigorous discretionary rules, to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of the people and businesses. To make law enforcement more transparent, China has expanded the scope and channels of disclosure, and opened online portals for the public to obtain information. Twenty-five provinces and equivalent administrative units have online platforms providing information on law enforcement and on the progress and results of cases in process. Twenty-two provinces and equivalent administrative units disclose written judgments online, and 17 provinces and equivalent administrative units disclose administrative review decisions online. To strengthen the supervision of law enforcement, China has established a performance appraisal system with a focus on law enforcement, promoted IT application in law enforcement and the management and synchronized recording of case-handling procedures, and strengthened real-time supervision over law enforcement activities.

Ensuring independent and impartial exercise of judicial and procuratorial powers. China has issued five outlines for five-year reform of the people's courts and five plans on reform of the people's procuratorates. To protect citizen's right of action, it has implemented a case docketing and registration system across the board, which ensures that every case application receives a response. China has reformed the management of judicial personnel, adopted a quota system for judges and procurators, and initiated job security reform for judicial personnel, enabling them to be more regularized and professional. It has fully implemented a judicial responsibility system to ensure that those who have handled a case assume full responsibility for it. The judiciary has combined punishment and clemency in handling criminal cases, further improved criminal proceedings, and introduced reforms on showing clemency to suspects and defendants who cooperate fully. It has improved the fast-track sentencing procedure for criminal cases, further separated the handling of simple and complex cases, and formed a multi-layer criminal litigation system with Chinese characteristics. Where conditions permit, local courts and procuratorates under the provincial level have carried out unified management of personnel, funds and property. China is exploring setting up people's courts and people's procuratorates across administrative boundaries. The Supreme People's Court now has six circuit courts, and there are also courts that handle intellectual property and financial cases, and online courts. The state has strengthened the protection of public interest, and public interest lawsuits are filed by procuratorial organs. By March 2019, 157,095 cases of public interest had been handled by procuratorial organs.

Improving judicial openness. To increase judicial transparency, China has improved the platforms for releasing information on judicial process, trials, written judgments, and the execution of judgments, and the platform on disclosing information on cases handled by people's procuratorates. As of February 2019, China Judicial Process Information Online had disclosed information on 370 million cases, the National Court Hearing Online had broadcast 2.59 million court trials, and China Judgements Online had disclosed 63.82 million copies of judgments, attracting a total of 2.26 billion visits. Since its launch on October 1, 2014, the online information disclosure service of the procuratorates has disclosed information on the proceedings of 9.28 million cases and 580,000 items of information on major cases, put online 3.86 million legal documents, and booked 300,000 defense and litigation applications online. China has strengthened supervision over judicial activities, criminal proceedings, and civil administrative proceedings, and improved the system of people's jurors and supervisors.

Guaranteeing the right to fair trial for all parties. China has promoted the reform of the criminal litigation system with a focus on adjudication, strictly enforced the principles of "no penalty without a law", evidence-based verdict, and exclusionary rule, improved the mechanism for witnesses to appear in court, and strengthened the role of court trials. China has fully guaranteed the right to defense of criminal suspects and defendants. A criminal suspect has the right to entrust a defender from the date when organs of investigation conduct the first interrogation or a compulsory measure is taken against the suspect. A defendant has the right to authorize a defender at any time. Pilot work has been launched to ensure duty counsels offer legal aid for all cases and legal defense is provided in all criminal cases, and legal aid stations can be found at all courts and detention houses, to ensure that defendants in all criminal cases can obtain legal defense and support in trial. The state protects defense lawyers' rights to meet their clients, to read case files, to investigate and obtain evidence, to conduct cross-examination, and to debate and defend, and other litigious rights. It has improved the mechanism for lawyers to perform their duties by law, formed a joint response system to ensure lawyers' right of practice, and established a platform to provide appropriate services to them. China implements the principle of presumption of innocence to prevent and correct miscarriages of justice. From 2013 to March 2019, people's courts at all levels acquitted 5,876 defendants, ensuring that no one should be prosecuted without criminal evidence. Wrongful verdicts on 8,568 criminal cases were overturned, including 49 major cases concerning Hugjiltu for rape and murder, Nie Shubin for rape and murder, and Zhou Jikun, Zhou Jiahua, Zhou Zaichun, Zhou Zhengguo and Zhou Zaihua for murder. The wrongly-convicted all received state compensation in accordance with the law. China has strictly controlled the death penalty, reducing the number of crimes for capital punishment by a significant margin. In 2007, the Supreme People's Court took back the right to review all capital sentences.

Guaranteeing the legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects, defendants, prisoners, patients abstained from drugs and people released after serving their sentence. China has regulated compulsory measures and reduced the application of compulsory custodial measures. When the detainees enter a detention house, they are informed of their rights and obligations, and their complaints are handled in accordance with the procedure. Prison affairs are open to the public. China has improved supervision over the law enforcement in prisons and detention houses, to ensure that prisoners' legitimate rights are not infringed. Some prisoners are allowed to leave prisons and visit their relatives. The system of community service has been extensively implemented. By the end of May 2019, a total of 4.45 million persons throughout the country had received community service orders. Of these, 3.75 million had completed their service, and 700,000 were still subject to their service orders. The recidivism rate in the case of those assigned to community service is low, only 0.2 percent. Between 1949 and 1975, amnesties were granted on seven occasions to war criminals, counterrevolutionary criminals and some prisoners facing criminal charges. In accordance with the Constitution, amnesty was granted to some prisoners in 2015 and 2019. The state has promulgated the Narcotics Control Law and the Regulations on Drug Rehabilitation, ensured the legitimate rights and interests of persons on rehabilitation, and carried out law enforcement supervision. China has improved the assistance and management system for people released after completing their prison sentence, ensures their access to social assistance, and provides assistance to them in employment so that they can smoothly return to normal life.

Improving the system of right remedy and assistance. The channels for applying for state compensation have been expanded, with more types of cases eligible for compensation and the burden of proof made clear. The state has increased compensation for infliction of mental distress, raised standards of compensation, and guaranteed that compensation is paid in a timely manner. The systems of administrative compensation, criminal compensation and non-criminal judicial compensation have been further improved. Criminal compensation has increased over the years along with economic and social development of the country. The daily compensation for violation of citizens' personal liberty has risen from RMB17.16 in 1995 to RMB315.94 in 2019. From 2013 to March 2019, the people's courts at all levels concluded 61,978 cases involving state compensation. China has improved the state judicial assistance system. It has established a judicial assistance committee to actively dovetail judicial assistance with social assistance and legal aid, and help victims in difficulty who have not been able to obtain effective compensation. From 2015 to 2018, RMB3.75 billion of judicial assistance was granted to victims in difficulty.

Providing quality and more convenient public legal services. A sound legal aid system has been established. From 2013 to 2018, legal aid institutions handled some 7.79 million legal aid cases, helping 8.48 million people and providing legal consultancy services to 45.27 million people. The state encourages the development of the profession of lawyers. As of 2018, there were 423,000 lawyers and more than 30,000 law firms across the country. China has improved public legal services, and opened a physical platform for providing public legal services, the "12348" free hotline for legal advice, and online legal services. It is convenient to make an application for legal services, and the review process has been streamlined for public benefit. By the end of 2018, there were 2,917 public legal service centers in counties, cities and districts, and more than 39,000 service stations in towns, townships and sub-districts. About 650,000 villages and communities had legal counselors, and all provinces and equivalent administrative units had opened the "12348" legal service hotline. China has reformed the management of forensic assessment to enhance assessment quality and credibility. By 2018, there were 3,834 forensic assessment institutions approved by and registered with judicial administrative organs, with more than 45,000 forensic appraisers.

Enhancing public awareness of legal protection of human rights. After the PRC was founded, the government made an intensive effort to enhance public awareness and understanding of the Constitution, the Marriage Law, and ideas such as gender equality and freedom of marriage were gradually accepted by the public. Since 1986, China has implemented seven nationwide five-year plans on enhancing public awareness of the Constitution and the rule of law. China has included education on the rule of law into the national education system and teaching of human rights into primary and middle school education. Human rights majors and other related courses are offered in universities to cultivate human rights professionals. Special human rights training programs are conducted for officials at all levels, staff of organs of public security, procuratorates and courts, and judicial organs, and those who work in the media. China has eight national human rights education and training bases. Professional periodicals including Human Rights, Human Rights Studies, and China Human Rights Review are published in China. The China Society for Human Rights Studies has consecutively published blue papers titled Development of Human Rights in China, to advance research and education on human rights and promote understanding of the subject.

Striking against corruption to safeguard people's interests. In November 1949, the CPC Central Committee decided to establish discipline inspection committees at all levels. In 1955, the National Conference of the CPC elected a Central Supervision Commission. In December 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee elected a new Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, a sound system of intra-Party regulations has been formed based on the Party Constitution and supported by intra-Party regulations. In March 2018, the Supervision Commission of the People's Republic of China was established by law. Discipline inspection commissions of the Party and supervision commissions of the government at all levels jointly carry out full supervision over all public functionaries who exercise public power. From December 2012 to June 2019, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection investigated 389 officials registered at and supervised by the CPC Central Committee, and transferred 155 cases of suspected criminal activity to the judiciary. China has resolutely fought corruption that directly affects ordinary people's lives, and carried out special campaigns to address corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation and problems undermining the public interest. It has carried out thorough investigations of criminal syndicate-related corruption and protection rackets, getting rid of corrupt officials who sheltered or connived with criminal syndicates.

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