Criminal Justice in China
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Criminal Justice in China

An Empirical Inquiry

Mike McConville

The political, economic and social transformations that have taken place in China over the last half-century have had a major impact upon the formal methods, institutions and mechanisms used to deal with alleged criminal infractions. This path-breaking book, based upon the largest and most systematic empirical inquiry ever undertaken in China, analyses the extent to which changes to the formal legal structure have resulted in changes to the law in practice.
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Chapter 10: The prosecution observed

Mike McConville


INTRODUCTION In the preceding chapters, we have sought an understanding of criminal justice in China through examination of data extracted from the official case files and interviews with judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers. In this and the following chapters we describe how trials actually operate in Mainland China. To begin, we deal with the presentation of the prosecution before going on in subsequent chapters to deal with the defence and the outcomes. Our account is based upon the direct observation of criminal cases disposed of in the 13 research sites which were a mix of urban and rural settings and which varied in terms of socio-economic development. In ten of those sites, the observations were made by our three researchers and in the remaining three by selected staff drawn from within the justice system itself.1 We did not draw a random sample but rather took any and all cases that were being handled at the time that we were undertaking field work in the relevant site.2 As we shall see, while the sample contains a broad spectrum of criminal charges dealt with by ordinary and summary procedure and covers the less serious offences, most cases were of the more serious variety including a substantial group potentially subject to the death penalty.3 THE COURTROOM SETTING The criminal trial in China is functional and bureaucratic. The trial usually starts with an announcement to set the tone of the proceedings and assert the authority of the tribunal in the following manner: 1 We...

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