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Tighter rein on law enforcement demanded
By Hu Cong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-15 02:11

NPC deputies and legal professionals are calling for a tighter control on the power of the police and procurators to make sure the fight on crime is free from abuse.

A police officer explains the net shooter to a primary school student in Shandong Province, March 13, 2005. [newsphoto]
Ma Pingyi, a deputy from the northwestern province of Shaanxi, moved for a new article in the criminal procedure law to ensure presence of attorneys at interrogations.

"Lawyers' involvement in the investigative phase will to some extent help curb abuse of mandatory measures, coerced confessions, or other irregularities that trample the lawful rights of suspects," he said.

China's Criminal Procedure Law, after a mass revision in 1996, has introduced many important principles, such as cross-examination of evidence and open debate between the prosecutor and the prosecuted, to guarantee fair treatment for the accused.

The law also justifies the rights to seek attorneys. But in some cases lawyers have difficulties working for the accused because the police or procurators may not co-operate or hinder their case.

"Having a detailed clause to ensure attorney's presence during interrogation will further limit the possibility of judicial abuse," said Ma.

But some say problems in criminal investigations are more about enforcement than the rhetoric of law.

"Sadly, many judicial personnel do not understand the rationale of a check-and-balance litigious system designed by lawmakers," said Xu Guojun, a criminal judge with the local court in Runan, a county in Central China's Henan Province.

"Some police and procurators still adhere to the old mindset which views suspects as criminals, and that could prevent them handling cases from a neutral perspective," said Xu.

"Although the law entitles suspects to meet with attorneys, some police and legal professionals do not approve such request," he said.

According to Chief Justice Xiao Yang's work report to NPC sessions last Wednesday, 80 per cent of lawsuits nationwide were filed at courts at the grassroots level.

It has long been a worrying paradox that the cream of the country's legal professionals are in the cities, while many rural judicial departments lack professional training and supervision.

Some are now calling for a better balance.

"The performance of prosecutors is improving in qualitative instead of quantitative terms," said NPC deputy Chen Wenqing, who is also chief of the People's Procuratorate of Sichuan Province.

His province has, amid a national campaign against prosecution abuse last year, increased scrutiny of such irregularities as holding suspects in prolonged custody and collecting evidence by torture.

"Some local procurators have been arrested for abuse," Chen said without giving statistics.

According to the Supreme Procuratorate, some 1,595 State department personnel were charged last year with violating civil rights after abusing their power. "The ongoing changes in the judicial system are substantial and in some ways unprecedented," said Chen.

(China Daily 03/15/2005 page2)

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