Criminal confessions may no longer be obtained through torture or coercion, the Chinese government announced Monday, according to Reuters.
A joint statement issued by five governing bodies, including China’s Supreme Court, said that forced confessions are not legal.
“Evidence acquired through violence, threat, torture, or other illegal methods will be excluded in accordance with the law,” the statement explained.
“Prevent forced confessions, and do not force any person to verify their crimes,” the statement added.
China’s Supreme Court reportedly tried to outlaw forced confessions in 2013, but the practice is still quite common.
Confessions obtained through coercion or torture “seriously affect justice,” the recent statement noted. This unethical practice leads to countless wrongful convictions and, in some cases, the death of innocent people.
A teenager from Inner Mongolia was found guilty of rape and murder in 1996, and he was executed for his crime. In 2014, the young man was proven innocent. The real criminal was executed in 2015, reports Xinhua News Agency.
In another case, a man from Sichuan was sentenced to death for rape and murder in 1994. He was later spared and given life in prison. The man was released in 2013, one year after the actual criminal was arrested.
Both of these cases were instances in which improper criminal procedures ruined innocent people’s lives.
China has a 99.92 percent conviction rate. While 1.232 million people were found guilty in 2015, only 1,039 were found innocent. China’s high conviction rate is attributed to its affinity for forced confessions.
The severity of forced confessions obtained by torture came to light in 2013, when news that six interrogators accidentally killed a man by drowning him in a bucket of ice water surfaced.
Whether or not China will commit to the new rules on coerced confessions is unclear.
During a recent string of trials for human rights lawyers, confession videos were released appearing to show coercion.
Wang Yu, a rights lawyer with the Fengrui Law Firm who was arrested during the 709 crackdown last year, said that she was manipulated by foreign forces “attempting to darken the name of the Chinese government.”
“I am Chinese, so I only accept the leadership of the Chinese government,” she added. Wang also said she would not accept an international human rights award that the state criticized.
Videos of this nature, according to human rights activists, undermine China’s commitment to upholding human rights and proper legal norms.
Nonetheless, China claims that it seeks to implement trial reforms to prevent wrongful convictions, and that may lead to improvements in the criminal justice system.
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