Chinese Government Releases Statistics on Extended Detention, Illegal Parole Investigations

November 22, 2004

The Chinese government claims to have cleared “extended detention” cases involving more than 31,438 people between January 2003 and September of this year. Chinese officials define “extended detention” as the detention of criminal suspects and defendants beyond domestic statutory time limits for handling criminal cases.

According to a November 4 report posted on the Ministry of Justice Web site, public security agencies, people’s procuratorates, and people’s courts cleared extended detention cases involving 12,863, 571, and 18,004 individuals, respectively. The report notes that while cases involving 1,045 individuals remain to be rectified, 18 provinces and municipalities have cleared all extended detention cases.

At a press conference on November 18, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate presented a slightly more favorable picture. According to a SPP spokesperson, of 7,064 extended detention cases that were left over from 2003 or identified this year, 6,775 have been cleared and only 289 cases remain to be addressed. The spokesperson noted that the majority of remaining cases involved three provinces: Guangdong (189), Hebei (54), and Shanxi (22). Both sets of statistics seem to contradict earlier official reports suggesting that all but a handful of extended detention cases remained to be resolved.

Early in November, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate also reported on the preliminary results of its investigation into illegal releases in the criminal process. According to statistics published in the People’s Daily, the investigation has uncovered cases of illegal parole, sentence reductions, and medical releases involving 17,836 individuals. To resolve the problem, local government agencies have been ordered to reform sentence reduction and parole procedures. These reforms appear to be focused on increasing transparency, as suggested by a recent report on the first public sentence reduction hearing in Beijing.

China’s law enforcement and judicial organs launched the campaign to eliminate extended detention in the summer of 2003. Government notices and reports throughout the campaign have provided both tacit and explicit acknowledgement of common abuses of detention limits that outside observers have long criticized. The investigation into illegal parole and sentence reduction began in May of this year and is expected to continue until January 2005. Both are components of a coordinated government effort to fight corruption in and improve the public image of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, which were racked by a series of abuse scandals last year. Additional information about this effort and continuing problems is available in the criminal justice section of the 2004 CECC Annual Report.