China's chief judge deplores increase in crime and unrest


Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 4

Violent crime and social unrest are on the rise in China, the nation's top judge said in state press yesterday, as statistics showed an increase in the number of people convicted of crimes last year.

China's courts convicted over 759,000 suspects in the first 11 months of last year, up 4.3 percent over the same period the previous year, the China Daily reported, citing Supreme Court statistics.

Only 1,464 people tried during the period were found innocent in a total of over 593,000 criminal cases heard, the report said.

Among those convicted, 276,479 were found to have committed serious violent crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping or taking part in gang activities, it said.

"Criminals are becoming more organized, violent and intelligent. And crimes like murder, kidnapping and setting up explosives are all on the rise," Xinhua news agency quoted China's top judge, Xiao Yang (肖揚), as saying.

Xiao further expressed concerns over social unrest and "mass incidents," or violent protests and riots, which numbered 87,000 in 2005, up from 58,000 in 2003, the report said.

Xiao urged courts to place additional attention on "mass incidents" as "it has developed into a prominent problem disturbing social stability," the report said.

Meanwhile, Xiao trumpeted a newly enacted law ensuring the Supreme Court reviews all death sentences, which began on Jan. 1, as an improvement in China's human rights and a guarantee for fair trails.

"Serious crimes deserve serious punishment, no matter when and where," Xiao said.

But "a heavy penalty for petty crime is equally wrong as a petty penalty for heavy crime."

China executes more criminals every year than the rest of the world combined, but the exact number of executions is a closely guarded state secret.

Western jurists have long viewed China's judicial system as "designed for conviction," with guidelines on the "presumption of innocence" rarely implemented.