Chief Justice and CCP Central Committee member Zhou Qiang proudly announced at the National People’s Congress over the weekend that China’s criminal conviction rate had dropped to 99.92% in 2015. However, international observers remain unimpressed.
This metric was slightly lower than the year before, as the numbers of acquittals increased by a whopping 34%. In response, state media headlines boasted: “Courts clear over 1,000 defendants.”
More specifically, that number is 1,039 acquittals, compared to 1.232 million defendants found guilty. Making for a near 100% criminal conviction rate. Here’s a brief breakdown by region:
Less than six defendants per 10,000 won court cases in China in 2014. Here is a breakdown from 11 regions pic.twitter.com/cV7YQmodyt
— Caixin Media (@caixin) February 26, 2016
That small “improvement” likely isn’t going to change international perception of China practicing “rule by law” rather than “rule of law.” Rights group say that forced confessions are still common practice in China, meanwhile problems are compounded by an ongoing crackdown against lawyers, further reducing defendants’ chances at adequate representation and acquittal.
“We’re doing our utmost to let the public feel equality and justice in every court verdict,” Zhou said, adding that “innocent until proven guilty” is under strict implementation to prevent wrongful convictions.
However, in the past couple of years, mistakes made by Chinese courts have been exposed and subjected to heavy criticism. Since 2014, one Inner Mongolian family has been fighting the government for compensation for the wrongful execution of their son, who was found not guilty some 18 years after he was killed.
Zhou said Chinese courts “corrected” 1,357 verdicts in 2015. He announced that 240 million yuan in compensation was paid to the individuals whose rights were violated by State power, a 50% increase from the year before.
Still, once inside Chinese courts, justice is blind. The high-conviction rate is as true for Inner Mongolian teenagers as top officials put on trial. Last year, bossman Zhou Yongkang was convicted in a secret trial that only became public knowledge weeks after the judgment had been made.
Basically, no matter who you are, try to avoid going to court here. The odds aren’t in your favor.
By Carl Bakenhus