Friday, December 02, 2005

Dangerous Practice

One of the things everyone fears is that our legal system might get it wrong. that is why there seems to be such huge loopholes in criminal law sometimes because it is better, so the saying goes, that ten criminals go free if we can avoid sending one innocent man to jail. But it is one thing if someone is accidently, after being subjected to the full rigors of our judicial system, found guilty of a crime. quite another if that crime is forced upon him. Take for example a recent case (c/o BBC) in China:
Mr She, a former security guard, was arrested in 1994 and sentenced in 1998 to 15 years in jail for the murder of his wife, after a body was found.

But his wife reappeared in March, and Mr She's plight became one of the most glaring of many recent examples of failures in China's legal system.

Mr She said he had been tortured by police into making a false confession.
She's case is not an anomaly. It has been little secret that China still employs not only re-education through labor camps, but also torture. This system is not simply a product of the CCP's influence on Chinese law. Such practices were common all throughout the dynasties as a means of gathering confessions from accused persons. Those suspected of crimes were often subjected to any means the state believed necessary in order to bring about a solution to a crime. The more arbitrary nature of Chinese law is also not a new issue. In the past, Chinese law was always based more on principle (and can still be said to be similarly based) and it was by these principles (Confucian till the Republic, psuedo- Western Liberal principles until 1949, Communist class theory until 1980, development and stability [read: social harmony] until the present) that people were judged. The problem is the lact of rigorous codification and execution of law. The emphasis of principle makes it difficult to defend issues such as civil or human rights in China. The state's belief is that Social Harmony and economic development are a form of civil right (this definition gets kinda fuzzy when actually applied in China though) and therefore violators/disruptors of social harmony are a grave danger.

It is helpful to understand this and to note that it isn't a necessarily corrupt system. Again, lacking in rigor, but nor necessarily corrupt. The problem comes when one notices how Social Harmony and CCP control are synonymous. Out of that conundrum arises the worst of human/civil rights abuses and the lack of room for effective change.