SPP, SPC Work Reports Highlight 2004 Crime Statistics

April 5, 2005

Prosecutors approved the arrest of 811,102 people for all crimes last year, a 7.3 increase over 2003, according to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP). Procuratorates also initiated a total of 867,186 prosecutions, a 9.3 percent increase over 2003. Courts nationwide reportedly handled 644,248 criminal cases of first instance and found 767,951 suspects guilty of crimes. The SPP and the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) presented their annual work reports to the National People’s Congress during the week ending March 12. The full texts of the two work reports are available here (SPP) and here (SPC).

Both the SPP and SPC work reports focused on crimes committed by officials and on efforts to prosecute human rights violations. According to the SPP report, procuratorates nationwide prosecuted 30,788 officials for work-related crimes such as graft and dereliction of duty and investigated 1,595 officials for torture, illegal detention, and other violations of human rights, increases of 17 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively, over 2003. Courts adjudicated 24,181 cases involving work-related crimes. In an effort to highlight the supervisory work of procuratorates, the SPP also reported that procuratorates refused to approve the arrests of 67,904 individuals and decided not to prosecute an additional 21,225 individuals after approving arrests.

For analysis of the reported crime statistics, see below.



The increase in the number of arrests reported by the procuratorate is not particularly large compared to those reported in recent years. In 2002, the SPP reported a 17.6% increase in arrests over the prior year. In 2003, it reported that for the five-year period ending in 2002, the number of arrests increased 24.5% over the prior five-year period. In fact, the number of arrests increased every year between 1998 and 2003 except between 2001 and 2002, when there was a decline of 7%. The decline between 2001 and 2002 could be explained by the fact that a Strike Hard anti-crime campaign was launched in 2001, so there may have been a spike in arrests that year that was not repeated the following year (the 2002 figures are still significantly higher than the 2000 figures).

It is unclear whether the increasing number of arrests is primarily the result of rising crime rates or reflects changes in law enforcement capacity. On February 3, the Ministry of Public Security reported that it filed 4.7 million criminal cases in 2004, a 7.4% increase over the prior year. The number corresponds almost exactly with the 7.3% increase in the number of formal arrests approved by the SPP in 2004. Police in Guangdong and other eastern cities have complained about a rise in petty crime resulting from an influx of migrants over the past year. Chinese sources also indicate that juvenile crime is on the rise. According to the Southern Metropolitan Daily, the number of juveniles found guilty of criminal offenses increased 19.1%. A separate article in China Youth Daily noted that juvenile crime as a percentage of total crime increased each year between 2000 and 2003: 2000 (11.8% of all crimes), 2001 (12%), 2002 (13.9%), and 2003 (18.9%). As these sources suggest, that the increasing number of arrests may reflect an overall rise in crime.

Other statistics, however, indicate that the MPS is solving a greater percentage of filed cases and that procuratorates may not have the capacity to process the additional load. In the February 3 article, the MPS reported solving 52% of the 4,718,000 million criminal cases filed last year, an increase over the 42% rate reported for 2003. Moreover, both the number of formal arrests approved by prosecutors as a percentage of total criminal cases filed by public security (17.1% in 2004 and 17.4% in 2003) and the number formal arrests the procuratorate declined to approve as a percentage of total criminal cases filed (1.4% in 2004 and 1.3% in 2003) remained roughly constant.

In either case, official statements made during the NPC meetings illustrate that law enforcement is under pressure to demonstrate success in its battle against crime at the same time that it curbs internal abuses and submits to tighter controls on its power. According to an article published by the People’s Daily on March 6, senior Party official Luo Gan recently stated that China “will launch campaigns to crack down on crimes on a regular basis.” As this and evidence from public security sources suggests, China’s Strike Hard campaigns, which have traditionally been intense national crackdowns of fixed duration, are evolving into a lower-intensity but permanent feature of the political landscape. A week later, however, the China Daily published calls by NPC deputies for “tighter control on the power of police and prosecutors to make sure the fight on crime is free from abuse.”