Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Official Statistics on ESS Arrests, Indictments in Xinjiang Point to Big Crackdown on Political Crime in China in Olympics Year

At a recent news conference by procuratorial officials in Urumqi, statistics on arrests and prosecutions for endangering state security (ESS) in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were released. Through November 2008, 1,295 suspects were arrested and 1,154 individuals were indicted in 204 separate cases of ESS crimes. The statistics were published in a Procuratorial Daily article (in Chinese) on January 3, 2009 (see Dui Hua’s translation below), and were later posted on the website of the Political and Legal Committee of the XUAR.

In addition to revealing the number of ESS arrests and prosecutions, other statistics on how the procuratorate in Xinjiang handled political crime were also released, including rare numbers for cases dismissed, erroneous verdicts and illegal use of coercive measures, including, presumably, torture. Such transparency on a politically sensitive subject is rare in China, and could portend greater openness on such topics in the future.

The numbers of ESS arrests and indictments in Xinjiang in the first 11 months of 2008—with some indictments covering suspects arrested the year prior—are roughly double the totals for all of China in 2007, when 742 ESS arrests and 619 indictments were recorded, the most in each category since 1999. On a 12-month basis, it is estimated that more than 1,400 individuals were arrested for ESS crimes in Xinjiang in 2008, with nearly 1,300 indictments for the year as a whole.

According to statistics published in the Xinjiang Yearbook for the years 1996 through 2003, approximately one half of all ESS trials in China take place in Xinjiang. The number of defendants in ESS cases tried in Xinjiang is typically more than in other parts of China, making it difficult to estimate national totals from the 2008 statistics released for Xinjiang. But, with the large number of arrests and indictments following unrest in Tibet, and the crackdown against dissent in other parts of China, it is likely that for the country as a whole the number of ESS arrests and indictments in 2008 more than doubled compared to the totals recorded in 2007 and could well exceed 2,000.

The jump in 2008 arrests and indictments follows a 50 percent increase in ESS arrests and indictments in 2007 over 2006 and a 100 percent increase in arrests and indictments in 2006 over 2005. It is virtually certain that last year’s number of arrests and indictments for ESS—a category that covers subversion, separatism, espionage and trafficking in state secrets, among other political crimes—is the largest since statistics on ESS were first released in 1998.

The big increase in arrests and prosecutions for ESS last year is reflected in an unprecedented rise of known and suspected cases of individuals imprisoned for endangering state security in Dui Hua’s prisoner database. During 2008, the number of such prisoners in the database more than doubled—going from 355 on December 31, 2007, to 763 on December 31, 2008, largely from widely applied ESS charges in Tibet for arrests related to the protests in March.

Xinjiang: Striking hard against endangering state security crimes

Lu Lifeng

Since the beginning of 2008, procuratorial organs at all levels in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have taken on maintaining social stability as the central political task for strengthening legal supervision. [The organs] have struck hard according to law against endangering state security crimes conducted by the “three forces,”1 dispatching work groups in a timely manner and carrying out instructions that authorized arrests and prosecution for cases of violent terrorism. The following is information obtained by this journalist from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Procuratorial Work Conference convened on December 27, 2008.

In the first 11 months of 2008, procuratorial organs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region authorized arrests according to law for 1,295 individuals and prosecuted 1,154 individuals in criminal cases of “endangering state security” (ESS). Investigative organs were supervised to file 204 cases that should have been filed but were not, and ordered to dismiss 16 cases that were filed but should not have been. [Investigative organs] were ordered to arrest an additional 61 suspects for whom no request for arrest had been issued, and also to indict 125 more in cases where orders for indictment had not been submitted. Opinions for correction against investigative organs were issued in 110 cases due to improper use of coercive measures and other illegal circumstances during the course of investigation. Appeals were filed in 51 cases in which criminal verdicts or [appeal] decisions were in error and in eight cases with errors in civil or administrative decisions. 55 cases were recommended for retrial. Corrected opinions were issued in 86 cases in which, among other illegal circumstances, sentence reductions, parole, and non-prison confinement were improperly issued [for criminals], and where penalties were not carried out according to regulation in terms of criminal handling.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Procuratorate requests that all of its procuratorial agencies in the New Year make strengthening legal supervision their focus and make an effort to carry out supervisory work in a strict manner. At the same time, [agencies] have to further the standards for supervision of all institutions involved in law enforcement activities and the judicial process, and exert full effort to defend social stability and uphold the administration of justice.

1. Dui Hua note: The “three forces” are terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.

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