Chinese Scholars and Officials Discuss "Major Revisions" to the PRC Criminal Procedure Law, Other Procedural Laws

October 13, 2004

Chinese media report that 300 legal procedure experts met in Guangzhou last weekend to discuss a “major revision” of the Criminal Procedure Law as well as significant amendments to the Civil Procedure Law and the Administrative Litigation Law. The experts, who included both scholars and officials, gathered in Guangzhou for the 2004 annual meeting of the Chinese Law Society.

According to an article in the Procuratorial Daily, the Criminal Procedure Law amendments have been placed on the legislative agenda of the National People’s Congress and should be passed within the next five years. Under discussion are revisions that would (1) amend death penalty review procedures to return the power of review to the Supreme People’s Court and provide for adversarial review hearings; (2) encourage the use of bail; (3) facilitate access to lawyers in the pre-trial stage to address the problem of coerced confessions and torture; (4) clarify time periods in the law to prevent “illegal extended detention”; and (5) invalidate the testimony of some witnesses who fail to appear in court. A China Daily editorial encouraged the reform efforts, noting that it is time to overhaul procedural laws to “make them more complete, more reasonable and more attentive to individual rights.” Chinese commentators suggested that the amendments were being pursued in part to satisfy obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a new “human rights” amendment that was added to the PRC Constitution in March 2004.

Related stories were published in Xinhua (English), the Southern Metropolitan Daily (Chinese only), and the People's Daily (Chinese only). Additional discussion on problems in China’s criminal process and current reform trends is available in the CECC 2004 Annual Report, released on October 5.