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Seminar held on protecting prisoners' rights
( 2003-09-11 09:40) (Xinhua)

Chinese law experts and officials from jails and judicial administrations gathered at a seminar Wednesday for the first time to discuss how to protect the legal rights of prisoners.

Research and study on the rights and interests of criminals started in China some two decades ago and made remarkable progress,but there are still misunderstandings and ambiguity in the research, said Jin Jian, chairman of the China Institute on Prison(CIOP) that jointly sponsored the seminar with the China Society for Human Rights (CSFHR).

"At the seminar, experts and officials had a chance to exchangeideas about the good and the bad in the existing protection of prisoners' legal rights and what should be done to improve the work in the rapidly changing Chinese society," he said.

As a major symbol of human rights, the protection of criminal rights has kept improving in recent years in China, said Zhu Muzhi,chairman of the CSFHR, in a letter to the seminar.

"The country has always believed that even a criminal can reform and become a law-abiding citizen," he said.

The first specialized law on prisons was issued in 1994, defining the legal rights of a prisoner, including personal rights,civil and political rights, rights of education and the right to ask for legal aid. The Ministry of Justice also carried out relevant measures in line with the law.

Prosecutors have been sent to all prisons in China since 1995 to supervise the work of jailers and take in appeals and charges from prisoners.

"As a developing country still with a certain number of poor citizens, China has adopted different measures and systems to protect criminals' rights than the Western countries," said Prof. Han Yusheng from People's University of China.

Of the present some 700 prisons, 70 percent are located in remote regions hard to reach and 47 percent are in counties and even smaller districts like townships.

In some less developed provinces, prisons face financial difficulties and are unable to guarantee some rights of prisoners,Han said.

"But I believe things will become better and better with the development of Chinese society and the building of a legal system," he added.

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