Legal scholars have diverse interpretations of figures

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 12:00am

Experts say there are problems in faithfully implementing rule of law

The crime figures released yesterday could be read two ways, mainland legal scholars said.

One could be that judges, prosecutors and police had been effective in fighting crime, but the second could be that there were problems in law enforcement, making it hard to implement legislation faithfully and hindering innovative legal reforms.

'The second possibility is worth considering more thoroughly,' said Qiu Xinglong, director of the Law School of Xiangtan University in Hunan.

A lack of professionalism and understanding of legislation among law-enforcement officers could lead to innocent people being convicted, Professor Qiu said.

'With the rate of conviction remaining high, the possibility of miscarriages of justice grew as well,' he said.

Speaking from his experience as a lawyer, Professor Qiu said it was difficult for a defendant to be acquitted because of prevailing traditional ideas such as the presumption of guilt and political factors where officials try to meet targets in 'strike hard' campaigns.

The principle of a legal system which favours the accused was limited largely to scholarly discussion, Professor Qiu said. He said guilty verdicts were often handed down even with a lack of evidence.

He said many law-enforcement officials preferred guilty verdicts and favoured severe punishment.

Professor Qiu said promoting an understanding of the rule of law proved to be another arduous task, even among legal professionals.

His views were shared by He Zehong, a scholar from the Southwest University of Politics and Law in Sichuan province.

Professor He said some laws did not allow for a clear distinction between guilty and not guilty, often causing confusion.

However, Professor Qiu said: 'The main problem [in the judicial system] is how to carry out current laws faithfully.

'New ideas which have been reflected in legislation would be hampered by problems in law enforcement. Law enforcement is closely related to people's lives. People care more about whether laws can be fully implemented in accordance with the spirit of legislation.'

Recent improvements have been made with appointment of better-educated judges, courts adopting the principle of presumption of innocence in some regions, milder punishment for economic crimes and strengthening the implementation of legal procedures.