Co-Rapporteurs Mr. Tugushi and Mr. Modvig,
Distinguished Members of the Committee,
Let me begin by expressing our sincere greetings and respect to all members of the committee on behalf of the Chinese delegation. The Committee has made enormous efforts and played an important role in promoting the realization of the purposes and objectives of the Convention. The Chinese government appreciates these efforts and will support the Committee’s work as always.
My colleagues and I are very delighted to attend today’s dialogue. Our delegation is composed of nearly 40 senior experts from 21 departments in the central government and governments of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs). With a responsible, cooperative and open attitude, we will conduct a constructive dialogue with the Committee and assist it in gaining an objective and comprehensive understanding of China’s implementation of the Convention. We also sincerely welcome helpful opinions and suggestions from all members.
Since the last consideration of China’s implementation report, China has made further progress in its legal development and human rights protection. A lot of new achievements have also been registered in our work against torture. Most information has been reflected in the implementation report and reply to the list of issues that China submitted. I wish to take this opportunity to brief you on some major new developments.
Comprehensive progress in law-based governance— the foundation and guarantee for anti-torture work
In October 2014, China made an overall arrangement for comprehensively advancing law-based governance. Over the past year, relevant departments have promptly adopted a series of measures for implementation. A wide-ranging legal development process is well underway, generating sustained impetus for China’s anti-torture endeavor.
The principles of “strengthening legal guarantee for human rights” and “ensuring justice be seen in each and every case” have become the aspirations and goals for the departments and personnel in law enforcement, the judiciary and relevant fields in China. Regulation of judicial and law enforcement behavior, stricter checks and supervision of power, better prevention, correction and remedy regimes and other crucial factors in the anti-torture endeavor are reflected in every respect of our comprehensive progress to advance law-based governance. From legislation, law enforcement, judiciary, supervision and legal education to social participation, our increasing and all-covering efforts have produced major progress in our combat against torture.
I. Implementation of the principle of “respecting and protecting human rights” in legislation
We have amended the Criminal Procedure Law. In 2012, China amended the Criminal Procedure Law, clearly incorporating “respect and protect human rights”, an important principle enshrined by the Constitution, in its general provisions. This is also demonstrated in major specific amendments, including distinct stipulations on “the prohibition of forced self-incrimination” and “exclusion of illegally obtained evidence”, more detailed regulations on the conditions and procedures of coercive measures, stronger supervision on the conduct of investigation, and greater rights to defense. All these serve as a systemic guarantee against torture at various stages of criminal procedures.
We have abolished the reeducation through labor system. In December 2013, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China officially abolished the reeducation through labor system. This fully demonstrated China’s responsible and courageous attitude towards the reform and improvement of the legal system in light of its national conditions, the call of the times and the will of the people.
We have amended the Criminal Law. Last August, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed Amendment (IX) to the Criminal Law, which came into effect on the 1st of this month. The amendment reduced the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty, removed the circumstance of some crimes for which the death penalty must be applied, and reinforced the protection of disadvantaged groups vulnerable to abuse.
II. Improvement of mechanisms for the prevention and correction of miscarriage of justice
Miscarriage of justice is the most severe damage to judicial integrity and human rights. In 2013, a grand justice of the Chinese Supreme People’s Court warned in an open article, “We need to guard against miscarriage of justice like fending off floods and monsters. We would rather wrongly release a criminal than wrongly sentence an innocent person.” Improving the prevention and correction mechanism for miscarriage of justice is a key component of the implementation by all judicial organs of “strengthening the legal guarantee for human rights”. It also gives a strong boost to our work against torture.
We have improved and implemented the system of “exclusion of illegally obtained evidence”. Building on years of judicial practice, the 2012 amendment of Criminal Procedure Law reaffirmed the system of “exclusion of illegally obtained evidence” in legislation, forestalling interrogation with torture and illegal obtainment of evidence at their source. Later on, the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security issued specific interpretations or procedural regulations to specify the scope and procedure of the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence and to ensure the full implementation of this system. In 2014, the procuratorial authorities at all levels decided not to approve the arrest of 406 persons and not to prosecute 198 persons as a result of exclusion of illegally obtained evidence.
We have widened the scope of audio and video recording system. Since 2014, public security authorities have comprehensively adopted the audio and video recording system for the entire process of interrogation of criminal suspects for major cases, and will gradually apply this system to all criminal cases. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate has also issued regulations on improving the system of synchronized audio and video recording for the whole process of interrogation of persons suspected of duty-related crimes, and has stipulated the legal responsibilities for malpractices of case-handling personnel, including selective audio and video recording or deliberately turning off audio and video recording systems to evade supervision.
We have strengthened judicial accountability. Since 2013, the judicial authorities have put forward a series of regulations to establish a life-long accountability system for the cases and a tracing system for erroneous cases. Proceeding from our responsibilities for the law and to the people, we will correct all false cases that we discover, and hold relevant officials with malpractice accountable in accordance with law.
In 2014, courts at all levels changed verdicts of 1,317 criminal cases according to trial supervision procedures, including some major cases involving miscarriage of justice. In the same year, the procuratorial authorities issued 54,949 opinions on rectification concerning illegal investigation activities including the abuse of coercive measures, illegal obtainment of evidence and extortion of confessions with torture.
III. Enhancement of rights remedies mechanisms
As a legal saying goes, “ubi jus, ibi remedium”. In November 2014, the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress amended the Administrative Procedure Law, changing the system of approval for case filing to a system of registration, offering a more easily accessible channel of redress for citizens. In October that year, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued regulations on the review of criminal complaint cases to further regulate the review procedures of criminal complaint cases and to ensure comprehensive reexamination of cases in an open and impartial manner. In the first half of 2015, the procuratorial authorities issued over 400 opinions on rectification to case-handling departments regarding obstructions to the exercise of the right to litigation by defendants and agents ad litem.
Over the last two years, the Supreme People’s Court and Ministry of Public Security have promulgated regulations on state compensation cases. From January 2013 to June 2015, courts at all levels tried and closed 6,311 cases of state compensation with a total value of RMB 251.8711 million.
IV. Strengthen supervision of law enforcement and judicial activities
Supervision and checks and balances are the key to countering torture. In recent years, law enforcement and judicial organs have stepped up oversight measures at the first place and expanded their supervision efforts further to the earliest possible stages. They designated or deployed full-time and part-time legal compliance officers in frontline law enforcement units; enhanced supervision of the management and law enforcement activities in detention facilities, continued to carry out law enforcement quality assessments and the targeted remedial campaigns, and worked to prevent illegal activities including “cell bullying” and abuse of detainees; strengthened supervision of the time limit of criminal detention and redressed cases involving detention beyond the prescribed time limit; and extended on a full scale the information sharing network for law enforcement and for networked monitoring of case-handling venues, so as to achieve dynamic and efficient supervision.
Law enforcement and judicial authorities at all levels also subject themselves to public supervision. From the last review of China’s implementation report to last May, procuratorial authorities in China received 14,070 no-advance-notice visits to detention facilities by deputies to people’s congress. Open days have been regularly held by prisons and other detention facilities. Since 2011, 69 diplomats from missions of 47 countries in China, the East Asia office of the International Committee of the Red Cross and foreign media outlets paid on-site visits to detention centers in China, and expressed positive recognition of the conditions, management, medical service and human rights guarantees of the Chinese detention centers.
V. Upgrade human rights and anti-torture education for law enforcement personnel and the judiciary
The Convention Against Torture and other UN human rights instruments are an important part of the training programs of judicial authorities in China, with a tentative coverage of over 90%. Law enforcement training programs, including anti-torture training, are mandatory for all staff of detention facilities and prisons. The Ministry of Public Security is promoting the exam system for law enforcement qualification grading. The system incorporates the prohibition of extortion of confessions by torture, obtainment of evidence through violence and abuse of detainees as an important part of the exams and stipulates that police officers are not allowed to handle cases if they fail the exams.
VI. Further protect the rights of lawyers to practice law and ensure a greater role for lawyers
Lawyers are an indispensable part in China’s rule of law. A key component of our plan to comprehensively advance law-based governance is to strengthen and protect lawyers’ rights to practice law. A series of measures have been adopted recently. Last August, the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Justice jointly convened a national conference on lawyer-related work, clearly stipulating the need to respect and guarantee lawyers’ lawful rights to practice law and fulfill their functions, to establish a sound interaction between all judicial personnel and lawyers, and jointly to uphold judicial integrity. Last September, the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Justice jointly promulgated the Provisions on Legally Safeguarding the Right of Lawyers to Practice Law. The Provisions contain a series of stipulations aimed at upholding the guarantees for lawyers’ right to be informed, make applications, make complaints, meet with their clients, consult relevant files, collect evidence as well as make enquiries, conduct cross-examination, defend their clients and act as agents, and have further clarified the remedy measures and accountability mechanisms when the right to practice law of lawyers is violated. The growing force of Chinese lawyers, now numbering 270,000, will definitely play a greater role in law-based governance, protecting human rights and combating torture.
I would like to stress that when we adopted the above-mentioned policies and measures, we took into account both China's national conditions and relevant constructive suggestions made by the Committee.
There is always room for improvement in promoting and protecting human rights. We are clearly aware that China is still facing challenges in the prevention and prohibition of torture. As a result of imbalanced development among regions and short-comings in terms of the rule of law awareness and capacity building, improper law enforcement and judicial activities that are at odds with the rules have existed to varying degrees in certain locations. There is still a long and arduous path ahead before the total elimination of torture.
China has an unswerving position on and commitment to countering torture. Three weeks ago, the Fifth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee adopted a proposal on the 13th five-year plan for national economic and social development. It laid out a series of major targets and guiding principles for China’s development in the next five years, including “the basic completion of a law-based government system, enhanced credibility of the judicial activities, and a more effective guarantee for human rights”. Undoubtedly, the Chinese government will further enhance its efforts to counter torture in a comprehensive manner in its grand efforts to make all-round progress on law-based governance. In this regard, we are willing to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with international mechanisms, including the Committee, learn from their constructive experience and practice, and work for the better realization of the purposes and objectives of the Convention.
The Convention is also applicable to the Hong Kong and Macao SARs of China. According to the principle of “one country, two systems”, the parts in China’s country report that relate to the implementation in Hong Kong and Macao SARs are drafted by the respective SAR governments. Now please allow me to invite Mr. Law Chi-kong Joshua, Permanent Secretary for Security, Security Bureau, from the Hong Kong SAR and Ms. Chu Lam Lam, Director, Law Reform and International Law Bureau, from the Macao SAR to brief you on the implementation of the Convention in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR respectively.
Thank you Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members.