China has tightened judicial procedures against illegally obtained evidence and upheld the presumption of innocence, state media said yesterday, as the country seeks to combat perceptions of human rights violations within Chinese Communist Party-run courts.
UN experts have pressed the government about deaths in custody and persistent allegations that torture, especially of political prisoners, is rife in police stations and prisons.
Chinese officials acknowledge that while illegally obtained evidence and forced self-incrimination of detainees is banned, it still has work to do to eliminate torture.
Nonetheless, the government consistently rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it adheres to the rule of law.
Judicial authorities have “put in place a system to exclude unlawful evidence and protect the legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects,” Xinhua news agency reported, citing the State Council, or cabinet, in a paper it published on legal protection for human rights.
“China has revised its Criminal Procedure Law, and implemented principles, including ‘….in dubio pro reo,’” Xinhua said, using the Latin term that generally refers to the presumption of innocence.
According to the Cabinet paper, in 2014 the Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued regulations for fitting interrogation rooms and detention centers with audio and video recording equipment to prevent misconduct such as “extorting confessions by torture and obtaining evidence through illegal means.”
Other recent reforms include the enacting of the nation’s first Anti-Domestic Violence Law, Xinhua said.
The paper also said that China uses the death penalty only on “a very small number of extremely serious criminal offenders.”
The government said authorities “strictly control the death penalty and employ it with prudence.”
Although China no longer executes people for most nonviolent crimes, its law allows for the death penalty for dozens of offenses, including treason, separatism, spying, arson, murder, rape, robbery and human trafficking.
The exact number of executions in China is not known because such data is considered a state secret. Amnesty International estimates that Beijing executes more people than the rest of the world’s countries put together, which totaled 1,634 last year.
Human rights groups say death sentences are often issued after unfair trials and that too much weight is given to confessions that are often obtained through torture.
The steps to improve legal procedures comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) administration has tightened control over civil society, citing a need to boost national security and stability.
Additional reporting by AP
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