Jerome A. Cohen and Eva Pils. China’s Criminal Justice and Chongqing’s Anti-triad Campaign: Law v. Practice. SCMP (South China Morning Post)

September 2, 2010

There really are “two Chinas” when it comes to criminal justice — and injustice. There is the China where thousands of law reformers — scholars, lawyers, legislative draftsmen, judges, prosecutors and officials — painstakingly labor for years to produce laws, interpretations and regulations designed to bring greater fairness and accuracy to a system that has long cried out for both.

This is the China where the National People’s Congress is about to reduce by almost twenty percent the large number of offenses that can lead to the death penalty; where the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and central law enforcement agencies have just established procedural guidelines for excluding coerced confessions from all prosecutions and for granting special scrutiny to the evidence presented in death penalty cases; where the SPC has recently resumed the Herculean task of reviewing the many thousands of death sentences meted out each year by the lower courts; and where a relatively new Lawyers Law is supposed to empower defense counsel to protect the rights of suspects and defendants.

Spurred by domestic outrage over tragic police abuses and judicial mistakes and by foreign shock over the protean practice of torture and unknown, but undoubtedly huge, number of annual executions, China’s political leadership has gradually begun to move the administration of criminal justice to a higher place on its agenda. It is not ready to make the profound commitment to due process of law required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998 but has not ratified. But the leadership does seem interested in fulfilling the obligations China assumed when it ratified the United Nations convention against torture in 1988. It has also authorized steps to further reduce the number of death sentences in the hope of bringing down to perhaps four thousand per year what had been as many as ten to twelve thousand or even more. Some informed sources believe that, if the number can ever be reduced to two thousand, the Chinese government might then abandon its embarrassing efforts to maintain this vital statistic as a “state secret.”

Yet will the other China — not the China of improved published rules but of harsh non-transparent reality — allow such goals to be achieved? This other China is a police-dominated legal system that, in confronting the country’s very serious crime problems, does not comply with rules that restrict the pursuit of major investigation targets. This is especially true during periodic, high profile anti-crime campaigns such as the recurring “strike hard” movements or the recent effort to combat organized crime in the city of Chongqing.

The Chongqing government’s very popular campaign to stamp out local “mafia” is the most current illustration of the clash between rules and reality. While the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the central government law enforcement agencies were preparing new guidelines for the exclusion of confessions obtained in violation of the nation’s long-standing prohibition against torture, Chongqing police were engaging in a  systematic and lengthy torture program that coerced suspects caught up in the campaign against “gangsters” to confess even to crimes they may not have committed.


The case of Chongqing construction entrepreneur Fan Qihang, now before the Supreme People’s Court for final death sentence review, gives the SPC a golden opportunity to demonstrate that the new exclusionary guidelines must be taken more seriously than previous attempts to ban coerced confessions. If the SPC should reverse Fan’s conviction for murder and other offenses on the ground that it was based on evidence obtained through torture and send the case back for a fairer trial, this would be landmark progress in the administration of justice in China. If, on the other hand, it dispatches Fan to his death by allowing the conviction to stand, this will signal the continuation of business as usual.

Reversal of Fan’s conviction would publicly confirm violations of China’s Criminal Procedure Law by Chongqing’s police, prosecutors and judges, not to mention the city’s Communist Party chief, the powerful Bo Xilai. Bo has led the crackdown on mafia corruption but has dismissed accusations of accompanying human rights violations and belittled the defense lawyers who exposed them.

Fan’s  able Beijing lawyer, Zhu Mingyong, who failed to persuade Chongqing trial and appellate courts to exclude Fan’s confession before the new  exclusionary guidelines went into effect, recognized that, even now, success at the SPC would be unlikely if he contented himself with conventional advocacy. He therefore took extraordinary steps to publicize the five months of excruciating and professionally-administered torture suffered by Fan. In addition to media briefings that spared no gory details, Zhu submitted to the SPC and then released a video documentary that includes credible, secret footage of the detained Fan. It  shows his still vivid months-old scars from the shackles that cut into his wrists as they were used, for days on end, to suspend him from the iron grille of his torture chamber. Fan also displays the injuries to his head and the damage to his tongue that resulted from three attempts to end his ordeal through suicide.

Zhu’s imaginative lawyering and daring public relations tactic required courage and independence. Beijing lawyer Li Zhuang, who had the temerity to defend another alleged mafia leader, has already been scandalously imprisoned for supposedly inducing his client to make false torture allegations. Shortly after his sensational disclosures, lawyer Zhu vanished, perhaps to protect himself while the SPC deliberates. One hopes he has not been “disappeared” like China’s most famous human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng.

What will the SPC judges do?  Many Chinese lawyers and reformers want them to bring the law in action closer to that on the books by reversing Fan’s conviction and launching a general investigation of Chongqing’s torture campaign. Yet that would require courage and independence equal to that of Fan’s missing lawyer.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post on September 02, 2010 under the title, “Rules and Reality.   It appeared in Chinese in the China Times (Taiwan) on the same day. (简体中文

Jerome A. Cohen is co-director of New York University School of Law’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute and adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. Eva Pils is associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.

孔傑榮專欄-刑事司法存在兩個中國 2010-09-02 中國時報 【本報訊】 從刑事司法正義─及非正義的角度來講,確實存在著「兩個中國」。在 其中一個中國,數以千計的法律改革人士─包括學者、律師、法案起草者、 法官、檢察官和其他官員︱多年以來不辭辛勞地致力於創制法律、法律解釋 及規章,旨在使目前的制度更公平、更準確,而這兩點也正是該制度長期以 來非常需要的。 在這個中國,下列事件正在如火如荼地進行。針對目前為數眾多的死刑 罪名,全國人大預備減少其中將近五分之一;最高人民法院和中央執法部門 剛剛訂立了程序規定,禁止將刑訊逼供取得的口供作為定案依據,並規定對 死刑案件中證據進行特殊審查;最高法院近期重新擔負起死刑覆核的艱鉅任 務,每年對下級法院判處的幾千起死刑案件進行審核;兩年多前新修訂的律 師法得以頒布,意圖使辯護律師能保護嫌疑人和被告的權利。 警務人員濫施酷刑,司法冤案層出不窮,這些慘劇激起了中國國內民眾 的憤慨;不僅如此,五花八門的刑訊方式也令國外感到震驚,更不必提每年 實際執行死刑的數量︱其確切數字雖無從知曉,但無疑相當龐大。受此刺激, 中國政治領導人已逐漸開始將刑事司法的運作提上更高的日程。中國在一九 九八年就已簽署了《公民與政治權利國際公約》,但至今未批准,也未打算 對該公約所要求的正當法律程序做出完全的承諾。不過,鑒於中國已在一九 八八年正式批准了聯合國禁止酷刑公約,這似乎代表,領導人有意承擔中國 在此公約下的義務。同時,領導人還授權採取措施,進一步減少判處死刑的 數量,期望或許可以減至每年四千起;而在此之前,中國每年判處多達一萬 至一萬兩千起的死刑,有時甚至還不止這個數字。一些消息靈通人士認為, 如果這個數字能減少至兩千,到那時,中國政府也許就不必大費周折,難堪 地將這些重要的數據按「國家秘密」來對待了。 但是,另外那個中國會允許實現這樣的目標嗎?在那個中國,改良的紙 上法規被嚴峻而不透明的現實所覆蓋。那是一個由警界主導法律體制的中國。 在面臨國家十分嚴重的犯罪問題時候,這個體制不願遵守那些會限制追訴重 要調查對象的法規。這尤其反映在定期的、高調的打擊犯罪活動中,例如反 復出現的「嚴打」,或是近期在重慶市開展的,打擊有組織犯罪的所謂「打 黑」運動。 重慶政府廣受民眾歡迎的打擊當地「黑社會」運動,是展現法律和現實 交鋒的最近實例。當時,最高法院和中央政府執法部門正在籌備新的《關於 辦理刑事案件排除非法證據若干問題的規定》,即基於國家長久以來禁止酷 刑的規定,排除以刑訊或其他非法方式取得的口供;然而與此同時,重慶警 方卻忙於一項系統性的、漫長的酷刑計畫,逼迫「打黑」運動中抓到的嫌疑 犯,承認一些他們可能根本沒犯下的罪行。 重慶建築工程企業家樊奇杭的案子,目前已移交最高法院進行死刑覆核。 鑒於之前種種禁止刑訊逼供的嘗試並不盡如人意,這個案件給了最高法院一 個絕好的機會,來顯示,這次新的證據排除規定應被正視。如果最高法院能 承認該案定罪的證據是由刑訊逼供取得,並基於此撤銷對樊奇杭殺人罪和其 他罪行的認定,將案件發回以求一個更加公正的審判,這將成為中國執法進 程中的一個里程碑。反之,如果最高法院核准死刑立即執行,即承認對樊的 定罪,則意味著一切如故,未有改善。 一旦樊的定罪被推翻,就相當於公開證實了重慶警務人員、檢察官、法 官違反中國刑事訴訟法的規定,這自然少不了薄熙來這個掌大權的市委書記。 薄領導了「打黑」運動,但同時,他不僅否認「打黑」過程中違反人權的指 控,且對揭發此類行為的律師表示輕視。 樊的辯護律師朱明勇是一名能幹的北京律師,在新的證據排除規定生效 前,他曾先後向重慶一審、二審法院要求排除樊的口供作為定案證據,但均 以失敗告終。他意識到,到了現在,如果他仍固守於傳統的辯護方式,則案 件在最高法院「翻身」的可能性依然很小。因此,他採取了非同一般的手段, 將樊遭受的長達五個月非人般的、專業手法的折磨公諸於眾。除了媒體簡報 中血淋淋的細節,朱還將一個記錄片提交最高法院,其中包括祕密錄下的攝 影片段,如實地拍攝了在押中的樊奇杭。這個紀錄片同時也被朱公開。片段 顯示了樊的手腕上清晰的傷痕,這是若干月前,他連續數日被雙手銬起反剪 著吊在刑訊地點窗戶的鐵柵欄上,手銬嵌入他手腕後留下的。樊還在錄影中 提到他曾三次試圖自殺以逃避這種折磨,並指出了因此留在他頭部和舌尖的 傷口。 朱明勇富有想像力的律師技巧,以及大膽運用的公共關係策略,有賴於 勇氣,也需要獨立性。北京律師李莊,由於無畏地為另一位所謂的黑社會首 領辯護,現已身陷囹圄。他的入獄極端令人憤慨,因為其緣由竟是所謂的唆 使當事人編造受到刑訊逼供的供述。而在令人嘩然的公開披露之後不久,朱 明勇律師便杳無音訊了,或許,他是為了在最高法院評議期間保護自己。人 們希望,他不是像中國最著名的維權律師高智晟那樣,「被失蹤」了。 最高法院的法官會怎樣做呢?許多中國律師和改革人士希望,最高法院 的法官能通過推翻對樊奇杭的定罪,以及對重慶的刑訊「運動」展開普遍調 查,促使實踐中的法律向書本上的規定進一步貼近。但那同樣需要勇氣和獨 立性,就像已失蹤的樊奇杭的律師所擁有的那樣。 (作者孔傑榮 Jerome A. Cohen,紐約大學亞美法研究所共同主任,外 交關係協會兼任資深研究員。作者艾華 Eva Pils,香港中文大學法律學院副 教授。英文原文請參。亞美法研究所研究員韓羽譯。)