PUN­ISH­ING RIGHTS LAWYERS IS CHINA’S TOP ACHIEVE­MENT

China also re­ported a jump in the num­ber of graft cases, says re­port

New Straits Times - - World - AFP

CHINA yes­ter­day boasted harsh pun­ish­ments meted out to rights de­fend­ers was the le­gal sys­tem’s top ac­com­plish­ment last year, as the coun­try re­ported a jump in the num­ber of cor­rup­tion cases tried in its courts.

Ac­tivists and lawyers are a con­stant thorn in the side of Bei­jing and are of­ten ac­cused of be­ing in ca­hoots with for­eign or­gan­i­sa­tions try­ing to un­der­mine na­tional se­cu­rity and stir up op­po­si­tion to the gov­ern­ment.

In an an­nual re­port to China’s rub­ber-stamp Par­lia­ment, chief jus­tice Zhou Qiang said the “se­vere pun­ish­ment of the crime of en­dan­ger­ing state se­cu­rity” com­mit­ted by rights de­fend­ers was a key achieve­ment last year.

It ranked as the lead­ing item in a list of mea­sures taken last year to “safe­guard hu­man rights” in China.

Among the rights de­fend­ers pun­ished and sin­gled out for men­tion in the re­port was prom­i­nent lawyer Zhou Shifeng, who in Au­gust was sen­tenced to seven years in prison for “sub­ver­sion”.

His Fen­grui law firm was known for tak­ing on cases con­sid­ered sen­si­tive by the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party, such as those of dis­si­dent schol­ars, vic­tims of sex­ual abuse and mem­bers of banned re­li­gious groups.

The num­ber of cor­rup­tion cases tried in China’s courts last year rose by about a third from 2015, chief jus­tice Zhou said, vow­ing the coun­try would main­tain the mo­men­tum of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s anti-graft cam­paign.

Xi has presided over a much­pub­li­cised crack­down on ram­pant gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion since com­ing to power in 2012, with more than one mil­lion of­fi­cials pun­ished in what some com­pare to a po­lit­i­cal purge.

Last year, Chi­nese courts heard 45,000 graft cases in­volv­ing 63,000 peo­ple, up from 34,000 cases in 2015.

For over­all hear­ings, the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court heard nearly 23,000 cases and lo­cal courts heard some 23 mil­lion last year, with only 1,076 de­fen­dants found not guilty.

Chi­nese courts have a con­vic­tion rate of 99.92 per cent.

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