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Reform strengthens rule of law

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-09 08:04

Guiding principle

On Dec 22, the Jiangxi Provincial High People's Court overturned the convictions of Huang Zhiqiang, Fang Chunping, Cheng Fagen and Cheng Lihe - the four men from Jiangxi province jailed for rape, double murder and dismembering a body - after ruling that their confessions may have been obtained though coercion or subterfuge.

Huang Huasheng, a professor of law at Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics in Nanchang, the provincial capital, said the decision was further evidence that the principle that flawed cases should not be brought to trial is being observed by the country's legal professionals.

In 2003, the four men were sentenced to death by a court in Jingdezhen, a prefecture-level city in the province, after being incorrectly identified as the perpetrators of the crimes, which occurred in 2000.

In 2006, following an appeal, the court changed the men's sentences to death with a two-year reprieve, a tariff that is usually commuted to life imprisonment.

Six years later, a man named Fang Linzai admitted responsibility for the crimes, which accelerated the appeal process and resulted in the men's convictions being quashed.

"Justice finally arrived after our efforts against improper collection of evidence (by the police)," Jian Yiping, Cheng Lihe's lawyer, said.

Huang echoed Jian's words, saying the nation's judicial bodies have often convicted people despite the inconsistent and circumstantial evidence brought against them. "They (judicial bodies) rarely upheld the principle that no penalty should be applied if there are any doubts about the validity of a case," he said, adding that such behavior violated the law, contradicted established legal procedure and was the source of a number of wrongful convictions.

"It's pleasing to see that the country has introduced judicial reforms to highlight independence and transparency in court hearings. The changes will help to uphold justice," Huang said.

Since 2013, in a move that has pleased Li, Nie's family lawyer, China's courts have vowed to ensure that every defendant will be treated in accordance with the law. "I totally agree with the move and support it," he said.

"In the past, our justice system was always enshrined in weighty legal documents, so regular people had no idea about what it was. But now they can 'see' and 'feel' it during lawsuits," he added.

"When every single case - each one a brick in the 'legal building' - can be conducted secure in the knowledge that the evidence has been collected legally and in accordance with the principle of no trials for flawed cases, I believe that justice will protect us all the time."

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