Chinese courts last year declared 1,039 defendants innocent, a year-on-year increase of 34 percent, the country’s top judge said on March 13.
The defendants were cleared as judicial authorities attempted to prevent miscarriages of justice and protect human rights.
A total of 240 million yuan ($36.4 million) in compensation was paid to those whose legitimate rights were violated by State power last year, a year-on-year rise of 50 percent, Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court, said.
He made the remarks while delivering an annual work report to the ongoing annual session of the top legislature.
“We’re doing our utmost to let the public feel equality and justice in every court verdict,” Zhou said, adding that the principle of “innocent until proved guilty” had been implemented strictly to prevent wrongful verdicts.
Courts nationwide corrected 1,357 wrongful criminal convictions last year, including a number of high-profile ones. The latest case to attract national attention involved Chen Man, a man who was acquitted on Feb 1 after being jailed for 23 years in a homicide and arson case in Hainan province.
Prosecutors nationwide have also tightened supervision of the police and judges.
A work report by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate released on Sunday shows that prosecutors last year rejected police arrest applications for 131,675 suspects due to insufficient evidence, a year-on-year increase of 13 percent.
Under Chinese law, all formal arrests must be approved by prosecuting authorities.
Cao Jianming, prosecutor-general at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, said while delivering the annual report to the top legislature, “We’ve attached great importance to the factual and procedural justice and intensified supervision of litigation activities to ensure justice.”
According to Chinese laws, prosecuting authorities have the right and obligation to supervise judges and the police.
In recent years, unjust and wrong verdicts have been found in cases, exposing loopholes in law enforcement. Such cases have seriously violated people’s legitimate rights and damaged judicial credibility.
Wang Songmiao, spokesman for the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, said, “Although wrongful verdicts are very limited ... one single such case is enough to destroy public trust accumulated by hundreds of just trials.”
Wang pledged to further regulate law enforcement this year to prevent such cases.
Zhu Zhangjin, an NPC deputy from Zhejiang province, said he firmly supports judicial authorities in correcting wrongful decisions, but suggested higher compensation be paid, as that given by the State is “too low”.
On March 13, the top court also said that 31,527 prisoners in China were released ahead of time last year thanks to an amnesty deal.
The amnesty was adopted by the top legislature and signed by President Xi Jinping on Aug 29, before national commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The prisoners pardoned included war veterans, the very old, young and infirm, who were freed by the end of last year.