Chinese courts corrected the highest number of wrongful charges and verdicts last year following flawed criminal trials.
Protection of citizens’ rights also progressed, with compensation awarded to people for losses stemming from ill-advised government actions.
In correcting flawed trials and charges, not guilty decisions were pronounced in 12 cases, in which victims and their relatives had fought for years to overturn initial rulings with repeated appeals.
Of these cases, nine went to retrials, and prosecutors withdrew charges in the remaining three.
Progress was made, with it taking a decade on average for each of the 12 cases to receive a final judicial ruling.
In the case of Hugjiltu, a resident from Inner Mongolia autonomous region who was wrongly charged with rape and murder and sentenced to death in 1996, it took 18 years for a court to declare him innocent and for his parents to receive State compensation.
Another suspect in the case is now on trial.
In 2013, the country awarded 87.35 million yuan (about $14 million) in compensation relating to 2,045 cases, according to recently released data. In 2012, State compensation of about 50 million yuan was paid relating to 2,035 cases.
There have been two big pushes to protect citizens’ rights in China in the past 30 years.
The first started in the late 1970s, initiated by Hu Yaobang, the late general secretary of the Communist Party of China. It sought to correct wrongful and sometimes fabricated charges, and resultant prosecution, of many citizens and even government officials during the “cultural revolution” of 1966-76.
This started a continuing process to build China’s justice and legal system in tandem with the country’s reform and opening-up to the outside world.
The latest rights protection push followed Xi Jinping becoming Party leader in November 2012.
He called repeatedly for the country to be governed according to the Constitution. Xi also promised stronger efforts to promote the rule of law in China when he presided over the top leadership conference in October 2014.
However, as 84-year-old legal scholar Jiang Ping said in a recent public speech, efforts to redress past erroneous trials are only in their infancy. He said it is not easy to deliver to people the impression of fairness and justness in every court verdict.
“We still haven’t seen a charge repealed on the grounds of torture and unlawful provision of evidence,” Jiang said.