China bans evidence gained under torture

Regular readers of this blog probably know I have an expectation that, as China grows more secure, it will loosen up on human rights issues while Britain and the rest in the West will clamp down on dissent. The cultural and social superstructure arises out of the economic base, innit? At some point there will be a crossover and that’s when I will seriously consider emigrating. If only they’d have me.

Well, yay for China. Another big step follows hard on the heels of allowing the biggest strike ever this month, which resulted in Honda shutting down its four vehicle plants. No movement was crushed, no-one died and the sky didn’t fall.

At long last, China has just banned the use of evidence obtained under torture in the courts. And about time, too. If only America and Britain would follow suit.

The China Daily reported:

“This is the first time that a systematic and clear regulation tells law enforcers that evidence obtained through illegal means is not only illegal but also useless,” said Zhao Bingzhi, dean of the law school at Beijing Normal University. “Previously we could only infer from abstract laws that illegal evidence is not allowed. But in reality, in many cases, such evidence was considered valid,” he said. “This is big progress, both for the legal system and for better protection of human rights,” he said. “It will help reduce the number of executions”. Zhao said the new rules will also help change the mindset of law enforcers and reduce torture in interrogation, one of the causes of wrongful sentences.

The longest journey begins with the first step. A few more, please. Like ending the death penalty.

UPDATE: Via B&T. Zhao Zuohai confesses to murder then his “victim” turns up alive after 11 years. A happy ending? Not if you are “touristed“. “They are immediately giving him the “seal your mouth” education.”

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12 thoughts on “China bans evidence gained under torture”

  1. David, sorry for the delay in replying.

    First of all, yes, of course I was with you in spirit regarding regarding the killings in Tiananmen Square. As I have written before at this blog, it is a scandal that the PLA was used against a peaceful protest of its own people.

    Regarding moral equivalence, I feel the same about torture as I do about the death penalty. It is wrong wherever it takes place: whether China, the US or Saudi. What China has to change is the high number of executions for a dizzying array of crimes and, ultimately and soon, get rid of the death penalty altogether.

    What I thought worth noting was that this official banning of evidence gained under torture was one step in the right direction, along with allowing the Honda strikes to take place. I hope to see a whole range of improvements, especially now that there is relative economic security. (The widening gap between rich and poor is another debate — I'm opposed to that gap.)

    We all know the faults of China. Broadly speaking, my interests are: 1) Are there any signs of improvement and what are they? 2) How can China continue to feed its population? 3) What steps are they taking to reverse the environmental damage? (They are at last taking a lead on this compared with the West but there's still a lot to do.) 4) Will China become a more equitable system with everyone partaking of its new riches?

  2. I do not hate China. Indeed, I love the country. My wife is Chinese, many of my best friends and colleagues are Chinese. One of my friends, who courageously ran an NGO to help poor migrant workers was herself arbitrarily arrested and kept in prison for two weeks. I do, however, dislike the government intensely.

    Please don't play the game of moral equivalence. Comparing torture in the west to what occurs in China makes as much sense as saying "What right have you to condemn the purges in Stalin's USSR when everyone knows how repressive the British Raj is in India." Orwell, a writer you purport to admire, made short shrift of such ad hominen tropes.

    If the subject under discussion is the use of illegal torture in the USA and the UK — a subject, incidentally, I have every freedom to protest against, unlike a Chinese citizen does in his or her own country — I would wholeheartedly concur with your views. But the subject here is China, right?

    Tonight, here in Hong Kong, the true lovers of China are gathering in Victoria Park to honour the students and workers killed in Tiananmen Square in 1989. I trust you will be with us in spirit.

    Sadly, even here in "free" Hong Kong the police acting under the instructions of the unholy alliance of wealthy tycoons and pro-Beijing apparatchiks who run the SAR have been doing everything they can to harass the publicisers of tonight's candle-light vigil.

    Well, if I am misinformed about the lifting of the ban on porn I'll gladly admit it. I'll get back to you on that.

  3. David, you repeat yourself.

    Sadly you are not well-informed, as your post on the unblocking of porn demonstrates.

    I am sorry you are driven by a hatred of China rather than an appraisal of the facts. How is reporting a fact in a post that is critical of torture (and lack of trade union activity) suddenly an "apologia"?

    Compare China and the West and you'll find state oppression in a variety of forms: China does not have the monopoly on this. All top heavy states use torture — US and Britain are no exception, even if Britain gets others to do it for her.

    I agree that enforcing this change is a whole other challenge — and I hope that the tide is turning in favour of improving human rights. But now that China has taken this positive step it will be a lot easier to enforce than before.

  4. In China there is a huge credibilty gap between passing a law and actually enforcing it.

    With no media or political transparancy it'll be a while before it becomes evident whether this is at all meaningful.

    Concerning your blog generally, I see that you describe yourself as a “centre-left” blogger.

    Well, I am British, very much “centre-left” politically, live and work in Hong Kong and the mainland, and never cease to be amazed and depressed by commentators on the left such as yourself who pen apologias for the Chinese government.

    Look, Madam Miaow, get real, remove those roseate-hued spectacles, and inform us how you can label yourself as being from the left and yet defend a regime that not only is one of the most authoritarian states in the world, one that regularly imprisons democracy and other human rights activists, but that also allows rampant free-market capitalism, has created one of the worst rich-poor divides in the world, where a new ruling herditary class of rich cadres exploits the impoverished rural poor, one that doesn’t allow independent trade unions, and one that fosters a decidely jingoistic nationalism.

    At least those of us from the “old left” were once able to identify a proto-fascist society when we saw one.

  5. "At long last, China has just banned the use of evidence obtained under torture in the courts. And about time, too. If only America and Britain would follow suit."

    Such a teenage thing to say. America and Britain both DO have such laws. However unlike China should such laws be flouted the public may protest and loudly. Will your precious China allow this? Of course not. China is a total rogue state and your posts trying to make her seem "normal" are laudable but dumb. Bit like Bertrand russell wooing the Soviet Union. Similarly, we ain't buying it. Great Socilaist China with workers dying by the low paid bushel…

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