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China: recent legal reforms failing - new briefing

Six months on from issuing a new Criminal Procedure Law designed to reform China's criminal justice system, the Chinese authorities are still illegally holding detainees in custody and refusing them access to their lawyers and their families.

Though the Criminal Procedure Law came into effect in China on 1 January, Amnesty International has found that the police in China are using vaguely-defined crimes such as “endangering state security” or “terrorism” to deprive criminal suspects of their rights, including the right to timely access to one’s lawyer.

In a new 30-page Briefing on China’s 2013 Criminal Procedure Law: In line with international standards? , Amnesty shows that while the new law theoretically allows suspects access to lawyers earlier in proceedings than previously, and strengthens the ban on the use of illegally-obtained evidence, the Chinese authorities have totally ignored the new safeguards.

For example, the widely-reported case of the journalist Du Bin - whose recent film uncovered torture and other ill-treatment in one of China’s most notorious re-education through labour camps - saw Du Bin being detained by Beijing police on 1 June and held in secret custody for more than two weeks. After his release on bail on 8 July, he confirmed that despite providing the police with all relevant contact information, his family had not been told where he was being held or even that he had been detained

In another case, the women’s rights defender Liu Ping was detained by police in Xinyu in Jiangxi province on 27 April on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” in connection with her human rights activities. Despite her impending trial - due to begin on 18 July - police have refused her access to her lawyer, saying her case allegedly involves “state security”.

Amnesty International’s China Researcher Corinna-Barbara Francis said:

““Since 1 January we have yet to see enforcers of the law respect these positive measures, especially when it comes to politically ‘sensitive’ human rights defenders and other activists.

“The improvements in the law are meaningless if police and local courts fail to implement them in practice. Unfortunately, the will to do this seems lacking.

“The Chinese authorities need to go back to the drawing board to further amend the law, trying to get it right the next time.”

Another of the most positive aspects of the law - a strengthening of a ban on the use of illegally-obtained evidence, including forced confessions, in court - seems to have been largely ignored. Lawyers, who are now permitted by the law to raise the problem of illegal evidence, have even been punished for trying to do so. For example, on 4 April the lawyer Wang Quanzhang questioned the legality of evidence which he alleged had been obtained through torture during the trial of a Falun Gong practitioner in Jiangsu province. The trial judge, however, not only refused Wang’s application to exclude the evidence, but ordered him be detained, claiming he had disturbed the order of the court.

Corinna-Barbara Francis added:

“Rather than allow Wang to apply to exclude the evidence, as is his right under the new law, he was instead given ten days of administrative detention as punishment in a complete travesty of justice. It appears it was only widespread protests within China’s growing online community that resulted in Wang Quanzhang’s release, after only 48 hours of detention.”

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