Roundtable: Balancing Justice and Speed: Dilemmas in Reforms to Prosecution of Minor Crime in China

Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, the University of Melbourne

12.30 PM to 1:00 PM – light lunch will be served
1:00 PM to 2:00 PM – roundtable session
Room 608, Level 6, Melbourne Law School, 185 Pelham Street, Carlton

Economic reform in China has produced new forms of crime, many of them minor. As people buy cars, dangerous driving offences have skyrocketed. New forms of economic crime including theft and fraud that were previously unknown in a planned economy have become common in the market economy. As economic reform progresses in China, China’s criminal justice system faces the problem of how to deal efficiently and justly with the increasing number of minor offences. Political attention became focused on this issue after abolition of the administrative detention power of re-education through labour at the end of 2013 and the transfer of some of those cases into the criminal justice system. The Chinese criminal justice system currently draws no distinction between minor and serious offending. It is searching for a way to distinguish between the cases that require a greater allocation of time and resources and those that can be handled in an expedited manner.

This roundtable discusses pilot reforms designed to improve efficiency in handling minor offences. In particular it examines the structure of offenses, the structure of the procedures to deal with offenses, and the relationship between the police, procurators and judges. To date these reforms have focused on the courts and prosecution agencies. Whilst there has been some simplification of procedures, the reforms have primarily focused on speeding up the process by imposing tighter time limits on various stages of criminal proceedings. A notable omission from the reform process to date has been the police. We argue that for these reforms to be sustainable the role of each of the state agencies involved in the criminal justice process needs to be examined and the ways they work together reconsidered. Even if there is no political appetite for major systemic reform, the more modest objectives of diverting minor offenders out of the criminal justice system as early as possible cannot be achieved without an all-of-system analysis.

Xie Chuanyu is Professor in the Social Order School at People’s Public Security University of China. Her work focuses on police powers, especially the coercive power exercised by the police in maintaining and controlling public order. She is China’s leading scholar on the science of public order, a director of Emergency Police Response Research Centre of PPSUC, with a police rank of 2nd Class Police Commissioner. Her recent publication; On the Sanction System of Offense (Law Press of China, Jan 2013), elaborates the categories of offenses in the Chinese legal system and the sanctions and the procedures for dealing with crime and the violation of public order.

Professor Xie is a keen observer of criminal justice in foreign jurisdictions. She has observed the American system during her stay as a visiting scholar at the State University of New York at Albany, U.S.A between January 2015 and January 2016. She had also spent extended periods observing the Victorian court system in 2009 and 2016 during her stay as a visiting scholar at the Melbourne Law School.