Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mistakes by autocrats?

If the system makes one mistake, how many others aren't discovered? And can the power elite maintain the loyalty of the people and its own legitimacy?

This would be a good time to review the inquisitorial judicial system in China. [See: Not Guilty Until Arrested]

 China Exonerates Man It Executed for Murder in 1995
China’s Supreme Court on Friday exonerated a man who had been executed for murder in 1995, in a dramatic example of the inequities in the country’s legal system and the authorities’ halting attempts to come to grips with them.

The man, Nie Shubin, was 20 when he was convicted of killing Kang Juhua, a woman who was raped and murdered in the northern province of Hebei in the summer of 1994. The local police arrested Mr. Nie soon after her body was found, and he confessed to the killing after days in detention. He was executed by gunshot in April 1995.

In 2005, another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to murdering Ms. Kang. But it took Mr. Nie’s family 11 more years of campaigning to clear his name before the Supreme Court did so on Friday. The court ruled that there had not been enough evidence to convict Mr. Nie and cast doubt on the authenticity of his confession.

Mr. Nie is not the first person to be posthumously exonerated by a Chinese court years after execution, but it is impossible to estimate how many have been wrongly put to death…

Under President Xi Jinping, the government has been making efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, with the overturning of wrongful convictions a key part of that effort. Prosecutors in China almost always secure a conviction, and confessions are often made under duress…

The Hebei High Court, which had upheld Mr. Nie’s murder conviction, expressed “sincere apologies” to his parents Friday… said it would begin the process of awarding compensation to the parents.

Legal experts say that despite some improvements in China’s criminal justice system, the underlying problem is that the system is not independent but controlled by the Communist Party.

Xu Xin, a lawyer and scholar in Beijing who studies capital punishment, said that meant that rulings were often made for political reasons…

Even as the Chinese authorities work to assure people that the courts are becoming more fair, the means for people to publicize injustices and bring them to court are being hobbled by a nationwide crackdown on lawyers who take up the causes of the powerless…

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