China’s Criminal Justice Reforms: Impacts on the Prevention of Miscarriages of Justice
- The widespread cases of miscarriages of justice in China – in the form of wrongful convictions and procedural abuses – have revealed deep flaws in the country’s criminal justice system.
- Such injustices have been a core challenge for the Chinese political leadership, as they have undermined the public’s confidence in legal institutions.
- Chinese authorities have enacted substantial reforms of the Criminal Law and its procedure in 2012 to remedy shortcomings and improve the protection of defendants’ due process rights in litigation.
- While those efforts have allowed for advances in principle, the impact of the reform has been limited by the lack of judicial enforcement and persisting institutional and structural deficiencies.
The promulgation of the Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1979 represented an important turning point in the country’s legal history, laying out the initial foundations for the development of a comprehensive criminal justice system. One of the key challenges faced by the Chinese leadership, however, has been to adapt and re-adjust criminal legislation to reflect the deep socio-economic changes that the country has experienced over its four decades of reform and opening up, but also to respond to calls from civil society to strengthen the rule of law as well as fundamental human rights.
Over the past decades, the disclosure by Chinese media of a series of judicial scandals involving miscarriages of justice (yuan an cuo an冤案错案) have highlighted inherent inefficiencies and rigidities in China’s current judicial system, creating new momentum for legal transformation. Those injustices have generated demands – from both the society and legal experts – for the construction of a legal framework that will ensure greater fairness and justice in criminal proceedings.
With a view to addressing those concerns, China has initiated a large-scale judicial reform drive, which featured a major revision of the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012. However, flaws in conception and obstacles in implementation have limited the impact of the reform. Deeper and more substantive changes in China’s approach to criminal law are therefore called for.
This backgrounder provides a brief overview of the development of criminal justice in China and illustrates what the current state of affairs is today. It examines the major shortcomings of the criminal justice system, which have led to miscarriages of justice – including violations of defendants’ rights and wrongful convictions – through the examination of landmark criminal cases. Finally, taking stock of the 2012 amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, it discusses how the Chinese leadership has sought to correct those inefficiencies.
Read full Backgrounder here
Xi Jinping Thought: Xi’s Struggle Against Political Decline
Abstract One of the latest extensions of Xi Jinping’s influence on Chinese society is the incorporation of ‘Xi Thought’ into elementary and middle school curriculums. Like his predecessors, Xi is […]
China’s Communist Party at 100: From Revolution to Rule
Introduction The founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 was a turning point in the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which celebrates its hundredth anniversary […]
The Dawn of the Digital Yuan: China’s Central Bank Digital Currency and Its Implications
Summary The COVID-19 pandemic has driven digital innovation and proved to be an enabling episode for the technology industry; the growing focus on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) comes within such a context. China has rushed to […]
China and International Law: History, Theory, and Practice
Abstract The current contours of China’s economic growth and political influence have given rise to interests in and concerns about China’s global profile as well as its strategies of International […]
China’s Urbanization: Hukou Reforms and Social Justice
Abstract This paper explores the socio-economic impacts of the Household Registration System (Hukou) and the delicate interplay between migration policies and urban development in China. Despite several rounds of relaxation […]
Taking Stock of China’s Anti-Discrimination Legislation
Summary China’s transition to a socialist market economy in 1978 – resulting in increased competition, especially in the labor market – introduced greater opportunities for discrimination. Since the 1990’s, China […]