Thursday, December 25, 2008

New Supreme People's Court Regulations Issued Governing Death Penalty Procedure

China's Supreme People's Court today issued new regulations clarifying the procedure used to halt execution of the death penalty. Dui Hua has produced below an Engish translation of the regulations and accompanying notice, as published in the December 26, 2008, edition of Legal Daily.

Dr. Flora Sapio, of the Centre for Advanced Study on Contemporary China in Turin, Italy, examines the provisions of these regulations with respect to the Criminal Procedure Code at her blog, Forgotten Archipelagoes.

It is worth noting that the Supreme People's Court first passed these regulations governing the conditions and procedure under which an execution may be halted the same week that the attention of many was focused on the fate of Wo Weihan, whose execution was carried out despite concerns that procedural violations in his case may have led to precisely the kind of "error of judgment" these regulations describe.

Supreme People's Court Regulations Concerning Questions About Procedure for Halting Execution of the Death Penalty

(Passed at the 1455th Meeting of the Supreme People's Court Adjudication Committee on November 24, 2008)
Leg. Interp. [2008] No. 16

Notice of the Supreme People’s Court of the People's Republic of China

The Supreme People's Court Regulations Concerning Questions About Procedure for Halting Execution of the Death Penalty were passed at the 1455th meeting of the Supreme People’s Court Adjudication Committee on November 24, 2008. With this announcement, they will take effect on December 26, 2008.

Supreme People’s Court
December 15, 2008

In order to guarantee that the process for halting the execution of a death sentence is lawfully carried out in a standardized manner, the following regulations are established in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code of the PRC and in combination with criminal adjudication practice.

Article 1 With respect to the provisions of Articles 211 and 212 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a judgment "may be in error" in the following situations:

(1) Discovery that the criminal may have committed an additional crime;

(2) The arrest of suspected accomplices to the same crime may have an impact on the sentencing of the criminal;

(3) Other criminals convicted in the same crime have had their executions postponed or halted, which may have an impact on the sentencing of the criminal;

(4) There are other possible errors in the judgment.

Article 2 After receipt of an order of execution from the Supreme People’s Court but before the execution is carried out, if a lower-level court discovers any of the circumstances described in Articles 211(1) or 212(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the execution should be postponed and a report requesting the execution be halted along with relevant documents sent to the Supreme People’s Court for approval.

Article 3 Following review [of the report] by the Supreme People’s Court, if it is found that [the circumstances reported] do not have an impact on the conviction or sentencing of the criminal, a decision should be issued to the lower-level court ordering resumption of the execution. If it is found that [the circumstances reported] could have an impact on the conviction or sentencing of the criminal, a decision should be issued to the lower-level court ordering the execution be halted. After the lower-level court halts the execution, it and other relevant agencies should conduct an investigation and verification and report the investigation results and opinions immediately to the Supreme People's Court for examination.

Article 4 After issue of an order of execution but before the execution is carried out, if the Supreme People's Court discovers any of the circumstances described in Articles 211(1) or 212(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a decision should be issued immediately to the lower-level court ordering the execution be halted and relevant documents transmitted to the lower-level court. After the lower-level court and other relevant agencies conduct an investigation and verification, [the court should] report the investigation results and opinions immediately to the Supreme People's Court for examination.

Article 5 The original collegial panel of the Supreme People's Court that reviewed the death sentence in the case should take responsibility for examining the report and relevant documents sent by the lower-level court requesting that execution be halted. If necessary, a new collegial panel may be formed in accordance with the law.

Article 6 With respect to cases in which executions have been halted in accordance with the law, the Supreme People's Court should handle the following situations accordingly:

(1) If the criminal is found to be pregnant, the verdict should be changed in accordance with the law;

(2) If the original judgment is found to be in error or if the criminal has rendered major meritorious service that ought to lead to a change of verdict in accordance with the law, a decision should be issued withdrawing approval for the death penalty, the original verdict should be vacated, and the case should be remanded for retrial;

(3) If the original judgment is found to have no errors, the criminal has not rendered major meritorious service, or the major meritorious service does not have an impact on execution of the original sentence, a decision should be issued ordering resumption of the execution of the original decision approving the death sentence and a new order of execution be issued by the president of the Supreme People's Court.

Article 7 After these regulations take effect, in case of discrepancy with the provisions of any previously issued regulations the present regulations shall take precedence.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Op-Ed: "Blinded by the Firewall"

Executive Director John Kamm submitted an op-ed to The Washington Post that was published on August 7. Entitled “Blinded by the Firewall,” the op-ed makes use of a recent survey of world opinion conducted in 24 countries by the Pew Global Attitudes Project to explore the disconnect between the way Chinese citizens think the world sees China and the far more negative opinions of the country actually held by many people around the globe. Kamm touches on factors that underlie the vast difference in responses, and argues that the positive view of how Chinese people think the world sees the country works against efforts to persuade China’s leaders to take steps to improve human rights.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Op-Ed: "Free on the Fourth of July"

Following Dui Hua's July 2 statement on the release on parole of naturalized American citizen and businessman Jude Shao, Executive Director John Kamm was invited by The Wall Street Journal/Asia to comment on the case. Kamm's op-ed, entitled "Free on the Fourth of July," was published on July 4 and discussed the background of Shao's case, the significance of his release, and the value of human rights diplomacy in the pursuit of better treatment and clemency for prisoners.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome Reduction in Use of Capital Punishment in China

According to a report in Friday's China Daily, in the first half of 2008, China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) overturned about 15 percent of the death sentences sent by provincial courts for final review. This news follows another report last month estimating that roughly 30 percent fewer death sentences were handed down in 2007 compared to the previous year.

Both of these revelations illustrate the impact of one of the most important reforms to take place in China's criminal justice system in recent years: the restoration on January 1, 2007, of the SPC's authority of final review over all death sentences in China.

Chinese legal officials, especially former SPC President Xiao Yang, deserve considerable credit for seeing this important reform to fruition. Facing serious practical challenges in guaranteeing that final reviews of capital cases are carried out in a consistent, timely fashion, SPC judges nevertheless have clearly made a priority of ensuring that the most serious punishment possible is only handed down when warranted by law, evidence, and the facts of the case.

Many Chinese legal experts believe that China should end—not just curb—its use of execution. Officially, the SPC appears to share this aspiration, but warns that the time is not yet right because of the deep-seated demand for retributive justice that reportedly still exists in Chinese society. But even if now is not the time for abolition, there are additional steps that China can—and should—take to further reduce its use of capital punishment.

China should increase the transparency of its system of capital punishment by releasing detailed statistics. China executes more people per year than the rest of the world combined. Dui Hua estimates that around 5,000 people were executed in China in 2007. We can make this statement based on a combination of published and anecdotal evidence despite the fact that the Chinese government closely guards its statistics on capital punishment on the grounds of "state secrecy." As the speakers at a recent press conference held in Hong Kong by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty persuasively argued earlier this month, the attitude of the Chinese public about the necessity of retaining capital punishment might soften somewhat if more Chinese could know precisely how many people are executed on their behalf annually.

China should place stricter limits on the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty. China's criminal code allows criminals to be executed for more than 50 different crimes, many of which do not involve violence of any kind. China's use of capital punishment for "extremely serious or heinous crimes that lead to grave social consequences" is overly broad, including serious, but nonviolent crimes such as drug trafficking, official corruption, and disclosing state secrets abroad. If China is serious about moving towards abolition, it should remove these nonviolent crimes from the scope of application.

China should increase use of "suspended death sentences." Chinese law already provides for a punishment in which the death semtence is suspended for two years. After the two-year period expires, the case is reviewed by the court and, if the prisoner is not found to have committed any crimes during the intervening two years, the sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. As part of the effort to guide Chinese public opinion away from the expectation of death for serious crimes, Chinese courts should expand their use of this unique form of punishment.

To be sure, the substantial drop in the number of death sentences carried out in China is welcome news whose significance for preserving the dignity of human life should not be overlooked. Building on this important accomplishment to improve China's human rights situation further will require more bold, decisive actions and additional legislative and institutional reforms.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sentence Reductions for Political Prisoners More Than Previously Thought

Over the last two months, The Dui Hua Foundation has received information on a total of 19 Chinese prisoners convicted of subversion for attempting to establish four separate illegal political groups. The information was provided by multiple authoritative sources in the Chinese government that have proven reliable in the past.

Most of these individuals and the causes they led are not well-known, even within China. The groups (three political parties and one labor rights organization) were set up in Gansu, Chongqing, Henan, and Fujian, and were active in the period between 1999 and 2002. Despite the relative obscurity of these groups, Dui Hua researchers were able to collect sufficient information to recommend several leading members for inclusion on prisoner lists submitted as part of bilateral dialogues on human rights with Beijing as well as pursue several direct inquiries of its own.

Analysis of 19 Prisoners: Sentences and Prisoner Lists

Of the 19 individuals about whom Dui Hua has received information, 10 are still in prison. Five of the nine individuals who received sentence reductions have already been released from prison. Three of the nine who received no sentence reductions have been released after serving out their terms; the remaining six continue to serve their original sentences. One individual died shortly after being released on medical parole. (Please refer to the accompanying table for additional details.)

While it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from such a small sample, the information nevertheless suggests that there have been more sentence reductions for political prisoners in the last two years than previously believed. All of the sentence reductions and early releases in this group took place over the past two years, since the middle of 2006. The timing may be significant: Beijing informed the US government at the end of 2005 that prisoners serving sentences for endangering state security enjoyed the same access to sentence reduction and parole as prisoners convicted of other crimes. Around that time, a nationwide review of China's policies towards sentence reduction and parole was being conducted by the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. The review uncovered many irregularities in the application of sentence reduction and parole policies.

The information on this group of prisoners once again illustrates the impact of being asked about in a human rights dialogue with China's central government. Eight of the 19 individuals had their names on prisoner lists submitted to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of these, sentence reductions were granted to six prisoners, three of whom have since been released from prison. Of the 11 prisoners who were not on lists submitted in a dialogue, sentence reductions were given to only three prisoners, two of whom have been released.

The most recent prisoner information received by Dui Hua concerns a group in Fujian Province who were given long sentences in 2003 for allegedly attempting to form a labor rights organization. The group's leader, Li Jianfeng (李建峰), was given a 17-month sentence reduction in December 2007—he still has eight years to serve—and one of his two top lieutenants was released 10 months early, in May 2007.

Hu Shigen Case: String of Reductions Sets Up Impending Release

The news of the clemency granted to the Fujian labor activists comes shortly after confirmation that Hu Shigen (胡石根), a pro-democracy leader and labor organizer who is one of China's longest-serving counterrevolutionaries, received his third sentence reduction since December 2005. The latest reduction was granted on April 1, 2008, setting the date of Hu's expected release from Beijing Number Two Prison for August 26, 2008—nearly four years before the end of his original sentence. The former university lecturer was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement and leading and organizing a counterrevolutionary group.

In Dui Hua's experience, the reductions to Hu's sentence are unusual in terms of their swift succession. According to the relevant regulations, a prisoner serving a sentence longer than 10 years should be eligible for a sentence reduction only every 18 months, but Hu's three reductions were spaced approximately 14 months apart.

Once more, this case shows the value of handing over prisoner lists to the Chinese government as part of the human rights dialogue, whether the names are of prominent prisoners like Hu or among the more obscure individuals profiled here.

Situation of Uyghur and Tibetan Political Prisoners

All of the sentence reductions reported to Dui Hua in recent months have been granted to Han prisoners convicted of endangering state security. Dui Hua is unaware of any recent sentence reductions granted to Uyghur or Tibetan prisoners convicted of political crimes. This is consistent with other news recently received by Dui Hua: that sentence reduction and parole for prisoners convicted of "splittism"—the criminal charge for separatist activity—are now being "strictly handled." This means that clemency is rarely granted to Tibetan and Uyghur political prisoners, who are almost solely involved in "splittism" cases.

Table: Political Prisoner Cases: Group Affiliation, Prisoner List Presence & Sentence Information (opens in new window)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Commentary & Translation: "Can 2008 Become China’s Year of the Special Pardon?"

In late April, The Dui Hua Foundation appealed for an “Olympic pardon” for some long-serving Chinese prisoners in a letter from Executive Director John Kamm to Wu Bangguo (吴邦国), Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. In the recent past, articles have in fact appeared in the official Chinese press about the idea of Beijing issuing pardons in 2008, a special year that marks both Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics and the 30th anniversary of the country’s economic reform and opening.

These articles have received little coverage in English-language media, but their publication may represent a sign of openness by the Chinese government on the subject of pardons. At the very least, they suggest that Beijing has felt for some time that granting pardons to prisoners, which was last done in China in 1975, is a topic worthy of renewed public attention during this important period for the country.

The most widely cited official Chinese article with a highly favorable view of issuing pardons is, “Can 2008 Become China’s Year of the Special Pardon?,” published in the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend (南方周末)
on December 13, 2007 (PDF of Chinese article with Dui Hua’s translation). The author, Liu Renwen (刘仁文), a prominent scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, presents the history of special pardons in China since 1949, the legal basis for pardons under the Chinese constitution, and their implementation by other countries that can serve as positive examples for Beijing.

Mr. Liu points out categories of prisoners who are good candidates for pardons, such as those serving what now may be seen as excessively severe sentences after their arrests during “strike hard” campaigns. He further discusses how the government can use pardons to “relieve strictness with lenience” as a way to help achieve a “harmonious society.”

Notably, the piece quotes remarks made by Xiao Yang (肖扬), President of the Supreme People’s Court, whose views provide insight, however limited, about how the topic of pardons perhaps has been part of an internal dialogue among top-level government officials. In comments on penal policy he laid out in a “Report of Achievements,” President Xiao stated, “[p]ardons are a major national policy measure and an important manifestation of civilized progress for society.” He added that “fully demonstrating the role of the pardon system certainly will have an enormously positive impact toward creating a harmonious and stable social environment and enhancing the internal unity of the people.”

At this moment in history, as Beijing looks to improve the country’s image abroad, it would be welcome to see the government re-activate its dormant pardon system for long-serving prisoners who pose no threat to society. This benevolent gesture would speak to China’s historical spirit of generosity as well as the country’s principal ambitions to build a society that integrates the ideals of harmony and rule of law.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Some Observations on the Conviction of Hu Jia

The prominent Chinese rights activist Hu Jia (胡佳) was sentenced yesterday to 3-1/2 years imprisonment by the Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court. According to the Xinhua News Agency's official report on the conviction, "Hu published articles on overseas-run websites, made comments in interviews with foreign media, and repeatedly instigated other people to subvert the state's political power and socialist system."

Hu's case can be examined from a number of angles—for example, whether China's laws against "incitement" contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or whether punishing Hu is part of a larger effort to silence dissent in advance of the Beijing Olympics. Here, though, we explore briefly two aspects of the way Hu Jia's case was handled and try to place his case in a bit more context.

What's the Rush?

It took only 98 days from the time Hu Jia was detained for the court to render its verdict. This is an unusually short amount of time to investigate and try a political case in China. Although time limits for each stage in the legal process are spelled out in China's criminal procedure law, numerous provisions allowing for extensions make those deadlines highly elastic.

To compare, we checked Dui Hua's prisoner information database and came up with a collection of 48 other cases involving a single charge of inciting subversion in which the dates of detention and sentencing were both known. These 48 cases cover the period from October 1997, when the law prohibiting "inciting subversion" came into force, until March 2008 and originate from 22 of China's 31 provinces and municipalities.

In this sample, The median amount of time taken to process a case of inciting subversion was 229 days, more than four months longer than in Hu's case. Jiang Qisheng (江棋生), a veteran democracy activist who called for a candlelight vigil to mark the tenth anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, spent more than 19 months in detention before being sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Yang Chunlin (杨春林), the land-rights activist whose petition demanding "human rights, not the Olympics" gathered more than 10,000 signatures and brought a five-year sentence for "inciting subversion" less than two weeks ago, spent more than 260 days in detention.

On the one hand, we might welcome the fact that, unlike so many other cases involving political crime, Hu's case was handled in accordance with the time limits set out by law. However, given the atypical nature of such judicial dispatch, one cannot help but suspect that the relevant authorities were reluctant to announce a judgment against Hu too close to the Olympics (where it might cause image problems), preferring instead to send an early warning to other activists not to make trouble.

A Lenient Sentence?

Xinhua also noted that, in light of Hu's "confession of crime and acceptance of punishment," the court had judged leniently and handed down a lighter sentence.

Just how light a sentence did Hu receive? Chinese law sets the maximum sentence for the crime of "inciting subversion" at five years' imprisonment, unless the crime can be considered major, in which case a fixed-term sentence of more than five years is allowed. Also, those previously convicted of criminal charges who re-offend within five years of completing their sentence are also subject to heavier penalties.

Whether or not the court determined Hu's crimes to be major will likely remain unknown until the verdict becomes available, but given what is known about the charges raised by the prosecution it seems unlikely that the court would make such a determination. Moreover, we know that Hu had no previous convictions.

Looking again at the 48-case sample, we find the median punishment for inciting subversion to be . . . exactly 3-1/2 years. Because Chinese courts do not reveal the considerations that go into determining sentencing, it is impossible to know the basis for considering Hu's sentence to be "lenient."

In fact, recent years have seen several similar, high-profile cases that were arguably handled more leniently. Suspended sentences were given to both Du Daobin (杜导斌), another critic of the government whose essays frequently appeared on overseas web sites, and Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), the crusading human rights lawyer who represented defendants in a number of controversial cases. In November 2003, Beijing Normal University student Liu Di (刘荻) was released after 386 days spent in detention for her Internet essays and alleged involvement in organizing an opposition party; prosecutors subsequently determined her crimes to be too minor to prosecute and set her free.

Concluding Remarks

China's judicial system is far from transparent, and the number of cases we know about is small relative to the total number of incitement cases. (Official statistics revealed over the past six months have shown that we know fewer than five percent of the names of people arrested for political crime in China. Our knowledge about the outcomes of political trials is limited to a similar degree.) Nevertheless, based on what evidence is available, it certainly appears that Hu Jia's case was handled with unusual urgency, if not particular lenience.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Op-Ed: "Laws, not favours, for political prisoners"

On March 4, an op-ed submitted by Dui Hua was published in the South China Morning Post. The piece was written in reaction to the recent release on parole of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, with an emphasis on the Chinese government's inconsistent use and arbitrary enforcement of parole laws for political prisoners. Printed under the title, "Laws, not favours, for political prisoners," the op-ed was co-written by Executive Director John Kamm and Research and Programs Manager Joshua Rosenzweig. The full content as submitted to the South China Morning Post appears below:

Hearing that Singapore Straits Times correspondent Ching Cheong (程翔) had been released on parole earlier this month and allowed to return to Hong Kong, we noticed many similarities to the January 1997 release of Ming Pao journalist Xi Yang (席扬), who was also granted parole following an international campaign and allowed to return to Hong Kong after serving less than one third of a 12-year sentence for trafficking in state secrets. Both releases were the result of political decisions made at the highest levels in Beijing, decisions that despite being made "in accordance with the law," actually suggest more of a willingness to bend China's laws and regulations, rather than operate subject to them.

To this day, we still don't know all that went on behind the scenes prior to Xi Yang's release. Preparations were underway for a visit of President Jiang Zemin to the United States in the summer of 1997, and Xi's name headed an American list of eight cases of concern submitted to Premier Li Peng, who had taken the most interest in Xi's case. Many have speculated that Ching was released early in an effort by China's leaders to improve the country's human rights image as the clock ticks down toward the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Both journalists' cases became causes celebres for the media in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong government played a strong role in securing both releases.

With all of the conjecture about why Ching might have been released at this time, less attention has been paid to the peculiar manner in which the release was carried out and the unanswered legal questions that arise as a consequence. Parole is not unconditional release, which is why it is a less ideal route toward early release than either medical parole or sentence commutation. (Having a verdict in a political case overturned by a court, with a declaration of innocence, is almost unknown in China.) Chinese law subjects parolees to regular police supervision and places numerous restrictions on their rights. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, Xi Yang and Ching Cheong are the only two political prisoners who have been allowed to leave China during their parole period—with the apparent knowledge of the authorities that such legal restrictions would not be enforced.

Specifically, the provisions of the "Procedural Regulations for the Handling of Criminal Cases by the Public Security Organs" (公安机关办理刑事案件程序规定) prohibit parolees who were deprived of their political rights as part of their original punishment—which includes the majority of political offenders—from publishing books, giving interviews, making speeches, or expressing any views damaging to China's national reputation or interests. Chinese police are prohibited from issuing passports to released political prisoners until the subsequent period of political rights-deprivation brings to an end the court's original punishment (and frequently continue to do so for long thereafter on grounds of potential threats to national interests). And regulations prohibit any journalist convicted of a felony from ever receiving the necessary accreditation to work.

By allowing Ching to return to Hong Kong, Chinese officials essentially abandoned any pretense of enforcing their own parole regulations. In recent weeks, Ching has given a press conference, granted interviews, indicated plans to publish books begun during his stay in prison, and expressed his intention to continue working for the Straits Times and even his desire to cover the Beijing Olympics. There are no apparent restrictions on his ability to travel abroad. Under "one country, two systems," China presumably has no means to compel law enforcement agencies in the Hong Kong SAR to act as its agent in supervising Ching's parole. And, even if Ching were instructed to return to Guangzhou periodically to "check in" with police there, can the Chinese government—or the SAR government—oblige him to do so?

Small victories such as the early releases of Xi Yang and Ching Cheong are welcome, if opaque and arbitrary, gestures by the Chinese leadership. The question remains: will others benefit as well? Will Lu Jianhua (陆建华), serving a 20-year sentence in Beijing in connection with Ching Cheong's case, be blessed with the slightest gesture of clemency? And what of the hundreds—perhaps more than 1,000—other Hong Kong residents serving prison sentences on the mainland? Will they also enjoy the right to serve their paroles in Hong Kong? Justice demands that, as we rightly celebrate Ching Cheong's release, we do not forget them and ask the Hong Kong government to help them as it has helped in the case of Ching Cheong.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hu Jia Formally Arrested: Human Rights in Olympic Spotlight

News has just emerged of the formal arrest of Beijing rights activist Hu Jia (胡佳) on charges of "inciting subversion." Hu was taken into police custody on December 27, 2007, following a raid on his home.

Members of Hu's family were reportedly served with a notice of the arrest approval on January 30, 2008. Specific charges against Hu Jia have not been made public. For several years, however, he has been publicly active on behalf of victims of injustice, during which he has maintained close communication with dissidents, petitioners, and rights lawyers and used the Internet to serve as an invaluable source of information about human rights abuses throughout China. This work has led to several previous run-ins with political security police, including a 41-day incommunicado detention in the spring of 2006 and more than 200 days of informal house arrest that preceded his detention in December. Hu and his wife Zeng Jinyan, also an activist, were prevented from traveling to Europe in May 2007 on the grounds that they were suspected of "endangering state security." (Since Hu's detention over a month ago, Zeng and their infant daughter have been prevented by police from leaving their apartment or receiving visitors, and virtually all communication ties have been severed.)

Under China's criminal procedure law, approval for "formal arrest" (正式逮捕) is granted to police by prosecutors upon consideration of evidence obtained during the preliminary period of criminal detention, which can last up to one month. After formal arrest is approved, police have two months to continue their investigation before being required to hand the case over to the procuratorate for prosecution. However, other legal provisions allow for police to request up to five additional months for investigation of complex cases in which the defendant faces 10 years or more in prison.

Hu's case has been formally classified as a "state secret," meaning that he has no right to meet with his defense attorney until after the case has been handed over to the procuratorate for prosecution—which, given the procedural regulations described above, could happen as late as seven months from now. The state secrecy classification also means that, assuming Hu's case goes to trial, the court will be required by law to bar all members of the public from attending all court proceedings other than the final verdict announcement.

One month before his arrest, Hu spoke via an Internet connection to a committee of the European Parliament, during which he is reported to have offered criticism of China's human rights record and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Whether or not these criticisms triggered his arrest, it is clear that the action taken against Hu Jia cannot escape being connected to the Olympics. From the perspective of the authorities, the opportunity to take this high-profile rights activist out of action in the final months before the Olympics may have been too good to pass up. By the same token, however, the arrest of such a prominent activist who maintained close connections to the international community creates a huge image problem for the Chinese government, as Hu Jia is likely to remain behind bars through the Olympic Games—possibly without even having a chance to see a lawyer. In his absence, Hu thereby becomes a leading symbol of China's human rights problems, a subject Beijing would rather the world not think about in connection with the Olympics.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Commentary: Arrest of Human Rights Activist Shows China's Determination to Suppress Protests

After the December 27 detention of Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia, Dui Hua was invited by JURIST, a web-based legal news and legal research service, to comment on the significance of the detention in terms of China's approach to handling popular dissent. Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm submitted a perspective on the topic entitled, "Arrest of human rights activist shows China's determination to suppress protests."