By Jiamu Sun

On March 14, 2012, the fifth session of the National People’s Congress adopted the latest revision to China’s Criminal Procedure Law (“Revised Law”). The Revised Law is the second amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law following its enactment in 1979 and its first amendment in 1996. One hundred and ten articles have been revised concerning topics including, among others, evidence, compulsory measures, defense, investigation, trial procedure, and execution. The Revised Law will come into force on January 1, 2013.

As has been reported, major progress has been made with respect to the protection of human rights, especially those governing forced confessions. Further, the phrase "respecting and protecting human rights" has been incorporated in the Revised Law’s first chapter with respect to the Revised Law’s aim and basic principles.

The Revised Law has aroused a great deal of discussion and debate. Among other articles, this includes Article 73, which stipulates that for suspects endangering national security, committing crimes of terrorism or serious bribes, the public security organ may appoint a monitoring dwelling place and may not inform such suspects’ relatives under circumstances where such notification may hinder an investigation. Some have expressed concern over the Revised Law, contending that the article unduly enlarges the investigative power of the public security organ and could suppress a suspect’s legitimate rights. Some have even contended that the article suggests that so-called “secret arrests” exist under the Revised Law; a claim that has been denied by officials from the Legislative Affairs Commission of National People’s Congress.

The Revised Law requires the Supreme People’s Court to question defendants when reviewing death sentences. Further, the Revised Law makes it clear that confessions, witness testimonies and depositions that are obtained illegally should be excluded during trial.