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Criminal Procedure Law: draft amendment published for public commentary

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China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comments on a new draft amendment to the country’s Criminal Procedure Law (刑事诉讼法).

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Criminal Procedure Law

The Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China defines how trials are to be conducted, what rights suspects of crimes have to defend themselves, the role and scope of the activities of defense lawyers, and the entire process of the administration of justice through Chinese courts.

The Criminal Procedure Law was enacted in 1979, and amended significantly in 1996 and 2012.

Draft Amendment

The pending draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law includes the following key revisions:

  • introducing default judgments for trials in absentia,
  • codifying the practice for leniency in guilty pleas, and
  • expedited trials.

Default judgments

Trials in absentia would be covered by Chapter III (Articles 291-297) of the amended Criminal Procedure Law, and would apply to “corruption, bribery, and other criminal cases, where the criminal suspect or defendant has escaped abroad and the Supervision Organ has transferred the case for prosecution.” In such cases, “the People’s Procuratorate may initiate a public prosecution in the People’s Court if it finds that the facts of the crime are already clear, that the evidence is credible and sufficient, and that criminal responsibility shall be pursued in accordance with law. After conducting a review, the people’s court shall decide to try the case in open court if the indictment includes clear accusations of the facts of a crime.”

This new procedure is aimed at furthering the China Communist Party (CCP) anti-corruption campaign, specifically to punish those suspects and defendants who have fled mainland China.

Leniency for guilty pleas

Leniency for guilty please would be covered by Articles 173-176 and 182 of the amended Criminal Procedure Law. “Where criminal suspects voluntarily and truthfully confess the facts of the crime they are suspected of, have major meritorious contribution or the case involves major national interests, then upon approval from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, People’s Procuratorates may make a non-prosecution decision, and may also submit a prosecution on one or more of the alleged crimes, and the public security organs may withdraw the case.”

Guilty pleas could result in not only leniency, but also expedited procedural rights.

Expedited trials

Expedited trials would be covered by Section 4 (Articles 222-226) of the amended Criminal Procedure Law, and would apply to “cases within the jurisdiction of basic level people’s courts that might have a sentence of up to 3 years fixed-term imprisonment, where the case facts are clear and the evidence is credible and sufficient, and the defendant admits guilt and accepts punishment and agrees to use the expedited procedures.” Such expedited trials would each have a single adjudicator.

The NPCSC has already authorized judicial authorities to conduct pilot programs to expedited trials in a few cities across China.

An unofficial translation of the latest draft amendment is available at China Law Translate.

Public commentary

Public commentary on the draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law can be submitted online, or mailed to the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission (全国人大常委会法制工作委员会) at the following address:

Chinese: 北京市西城区前门西大街1号 邮编:100805
English: No. 1 West Qianmen Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing 100805

Please clearly write “刑事诉讼法修正草案征求意见” on the envelope.

Comments are due by June 7th, and the amendment is expected to be adopted in August.

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