During this past weekend’s National People’s Congress, Chief Justice and Chinese Communist Party Central Committee member Zhou Qiang took the opportunity to make an important announcement. Qiang proudly declared that China’s criminal conviction rate had fallen to 99.92 percent in 2015.
This announcement, however, is not fooling the rest of the world. China is infamous for being perceived as having a corrupt, unlawful criminal justice system, if you can call it that. Rights groups across the globe say that forced confessions are still in abundance in China, and that China practices “rule by law” rather than “rule of law”.
Forced confessions are not the only factor for China’s decrepit “criminal justice system”. Adding to this problem is the ongoing crackdown against lawyers, which prohibits Chinese citizens from being given adequate and fair representation, therefore reducing their chances for a favorable verdict or acquittal.
Zhou assured, though, that “We’re doing our utmost to let the public feel equality and justice in every court verdict.” He also added that that “innocent until proven guilty” in China is under strict implementation to prevent wrongful convictions.
This 2015 criminal conviction rate figure was only slightly lower than the previous year, as the number of acquittals rose by a colossal 34 percent. The court cleared 1,039 people, but when you posit that number against the 1.232 million defendants found guilty, the very skewed perception the Chinese government wants its citizens to see becomes clear. While state-run media headlines boasted “Courts clear over 1,000 defendants”, they failed to notify the public of the atrocious amount of guilty verdicts they hand out.
Zhou also spoke to how when courts’ mistakes had been exposed in 2014, saying that 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.