China’s top judge has apologized for a spate of wrongful convictions and demanded that courts at all levels draw a “profound lesson”.
Zhou Qiang, chief justice of China’s Supreme People’s Court, said more than 1,300 criminal decisions were revised last year, including a number of wrongful judgments, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
“With regard to wrongful convictions, we feel a deep sense of self-blame and demand that courts at all levels draw a profound lesson,” he told the ongoing sessions of the National People’s Congress.
The Supreme People’s Court recently ordered retrials in a handful of high-profile cases, including that of an 18-year-old from Inner Mongolia who was executed in 1996 for the rape and murder of a woman in a public bathroom.
The youth was posthumously exonerated in December, nearly 10 years after another man confessed to the crime.
Revisiting mistaken judgments “never really happened in Chinese criminal justice”, said Fu Hualing, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.
“It’s a matter of credibility, and it’s a good thing”.
President Xi Jinping last fall ushered in a campaign to reform the legal system, saying a better functioning judiciary is necessary if the Communist Party is to effectively govern an increasingly complex and contentious society.
Xi, however put limits on those reforms, requiring that the legal system continue to serve the interests of the party.
Zhou, a champion of judicial professionalism, has gained a reputation as a reformer, with space to push for changes to make the courts more independent and better protect the rights of lawyers.
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