Wristbands, big data used to monitor people who commit ‘less serious’ crimes in China
- It’s part of a move to make fewer arrests and be more cautious about prosecutions under new criminal justice policy, prosecutors say
- A decline in serious violent crimes but a jump in economic crimes and offences such as drink-driving prompted the new approach
Chinese prosecutors say they have been using electronic wristbands and big data to monitor people who have committed offences that are not serious enough to warrant arrest.
It is part of a move to make fewer arrests and be more cautious about prosecutions under a new criminal justice policy, prosecutors told reporters in Beijing on Monday during a review of progress over the past decade.
They said the new policy had been introduced to adapt to a changing society that had seen a continued decline in serious violent crimes such as robbery and homicide but a jump in economic crimes and offences such as drink-driving.
They said significant improvements had been made, including to the pretrial detention rate, which was down from 91.4 per cent 20 years ago to 32.7 per cent in June.
But prosecutors said the new approach did not necessarily mean being more lenient.
“For those cases we decide not to prosecute, we can pass them to other government offices for administrative penalties.”
One resident said in a viral Weibo post that he had been sent a wristband by community staff near the end of his quarantine period and was told he had to wear it 24 hours a day and that it measured his body temperature. He refused to wear it because of privacy concerns, and after his post caused a public outcry the wristband requirement was dropped.
There have been other reports of wristbands being used in recent months. In March, authorities in Chengdu, Sichuan province, started using electronic wristbands and cellphone GPS to monitor suspects under residential surveillance or those released on bail. The wristbands provide real-time information 24 hours a day, Chengdu police told Red Star News.
At Monday’s briefing, Tong Jianming, grand prosecutor and first deputy prosecutor general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, said other highlights of the last decade included a crackdown on criminal cases, handling of public petitions, and judicial reform.
Prosecutors have also been focused on a three-year nationwide crackdown on gang crime. Zhang cited high-profile cases including that of Sun Xiaoguo, a gang leader in Yunnan who had twice been convicted of crimes including rape but had avoided jail time. Years later, after an investigation, the province’s high court in 2019 upheld a death sentence that was earlier handed down to Sun by a lower court.
Zhang said there had also been efforts to crack down on violent crimes that endangered people’s sense of security, especially those against women and children. In addition, he said that between 2019 and 2021, prosecutors went after more than 200,000 people who had been involved in illegal fundraising, telecommunications and pension fraud.