Time really is money for China’s top court – about US$38 per day

People’s Procuratorate sets new rate for settling cases of wrongful incarceration, but critics say it’s too stingy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 9:03pm

China has raised its rate for a day in the life of one of its citizens, to 258.9 yuan (US$38) per day, according to a notice on the website of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Anyone who is wrongfully detained but later found to be innocent can ask for financial compensation from the government according to the new benchmark, which is based on the average wage in China. The figure for last year was 242.3 yuan per day.

The new standard came into effect on Wednesday. Under it, someone who had their freedom infringed for a full year would receive compensation of about 94,500 yuan.

According to a government white paper issued in early 2016, China had approved 10,881 cases of state compensation for wrongful incarceration for 2014 and 2015, paying out 113.4 million yuan in total.

In one famous case, Chen Man received 2.75 million yuan as compensation for serving 23 years in jail after he was wrongfully convicted of murder and arson in Hainan province. A final court ruling in 2016 declared him innocent.

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An editorial in the state-run People’s Daily last year argued that human rights were a core value, and that when “the most fundamental right of personal liberty is infringed in prosecution of criminal acts due to the miscarriage of justice by law enforcement agencies, decent compensation should be given to the wrongly convicted”.

The editorial also questioned using the standard daily salary of state employees as a basis for compensation.

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“Is it appropriate to [equate] the loss of personal liberty for 24 hours to a day job of eight hours?” it asked.

Arrests and convictions based on dodgy evidence or even torture are not uncommon in China, and the government compensation system is the only remedy for those abused by the system.

In another famous case, the parents of a man who was wrongly executed for rape and murder in Inner Mongolia received 2.05 million yuan in compensation in late 2014, 18 years after the son’s execution in 1996.