Procuratorial Daily: Administrative Agencies Do Not Transfer Enough Cases to Judicial Organs

March 12, 2005

A January 31 Procuratorial Daily article summarizes recent discussions in Hefei, Anhui province, concerning the small percentage of criminal investigations that police actually transfer for prosecution. According to the report, police transferred only eight cases, or 1.5 percent, out of more than 500 cases involving economic crimes that they investigated last year. In China, police or public security agencies are considered "administrative" agencies, while procuratorates (prosecutors) and courts are considered "judicial" authorities.

The article cites Hefei officials as describing three reasons for the reluctance of public security and other administrative agencies to transfer cases. First, they seek to protect their own financial interests. They want to collect fines to offset the funds spent on law enforcement, but lose that opportunity if they transfer cases. Second, administrative agencies want to protect their power to levy fines, and they see case transfers as limiting this power. Finally, the work quality of some administrative agencies is low. Some are lax in enforcing the law, abuse their power, or supervise too loosely. As a result, the evidence collected in investigations is often insufficient to move the case to prosecution.

In China, police have broad powers to fine and even to detain individuals for up to three years for a wide range of "administrative" offenses. In such cases, suspects are not entitled to a court trial, and public security officials serve as investigator, prosecutor, and judge. According to outside observers of China’s criminal justice system, public security agencies also avoid transferring some cases to avoid time limits on detention and procedural protections afforded to suspects in the formal criminal process.