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Photo by Li Qiang

Chen Jianyang’s father still keeps the notice informing him of his son’s imprisonment for murder, issued December 5, 1998

Photo by Zhan Xiaodong

der-robbery cases in 1995 has been proven not to have been perpetrated by the five. So a simple correction rather than a complete turnover of the original judgment is expected,” the source from the Zhejiang Higher Court told the NewsChina reporter. The court said the newly discovered proof was related to the incident on March 20, 1995, and that it had organized a panel of judges to review the case files, investigate the facts and re-examine the five inmates. The investigation is expected to last three months, and the result will be made public at that time, the court said. Yet it remains undecided on whether or not it will launch a re-examination of the August 12, 1995 robbery-murder case involving the same five suspects. Wang Jianjun, the defense lawyer, told the reporter that the new evidence obtained by the police indicates that at least one of the two robbery-murder cases ended injustice. “Damage has been done to the five convicts, mentally and physically,” he said. Since the exposure of the She Xianglin and Zhao Zuohai cases, in which torture was used to extract confessions, China has taken gradual steps to address police brutality. In the past few years, China has released guidelines that define specific acts of torture for which police can be prosecuted, in an apparent attempt to rein in such abuses. Crucial amendments were made to the Criminal Procedure Law as recently as March 2012, including various major improvements on the previous version, last revised in 1996 (see NewsChina, November 2011: “Whose Law Is It Anyway?”). For example, in the chapter on evidence collection, obtaining confessions through torture is expressly prohibited. In the chapter on defense, it is made clear that the suspect has the right to engage the defense lawyer as early as the investigation stage, and the procedure for lawyers to meet with suspects and consult documents has also been improved and streamlined. However, while the acknowledgement of these problems is in itself a breakthrough, a sound accountability mechanism to prevent miscarriages of justice is still non-existent in China, according to Professor Xu Xin. Since the Zhejiang Higher Court began its review of the 1995 cases, Tian Weidong,

Zhejiang Higher People’s Court, which is reviewing Chen’s case

one of the five convicts, has reportedly been released from prison. At press time, the other four are expected to be released in early February. “I have been busy since getting out of prison on January 10, and I need to have my local residency registered, buy new clothes and organize everything necessary to start over again,” said Tian Weidong, now 41. “I’m still at a loss to figure out who I am, much less

how others will see me.” While Tian may have finally emerged from jail, China’s judges retain the right to overrule defence lawyers, no matter how persuasive their cases may be. With conviction rates an important factor in judging local justice system performance, those with the power to hand down prison sentences have little incentive not to convict the first people they find.


April 2013  

April 2013 Issue

April 2013  

April 2013 Issue