Back from the Dead: Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Justice in China

Hardback: $49.00
ISBN-13: 9780824856618
Published: March 2016

Additional Information

264 pages
  • About the Book
  • China's party-run courts have one of the highest conviction rates in the world, with forced confessions remaining a central feature. Despite recent prohibitions on evidence obtained through coercion or torture, forced confessions continue to undermine the Chinese judicial system. Recounting some harrowing cases of wrongful conviction, acclaimed legal scholar and novelist He Jiahong analyzes many problems in China's justice system. In one such case, Teng Xingshan was convicted in 1988 and later executed for murdering his mistress, but almost six years later it was discovered that the supposed victim, Shi Xiaorong, was still alive. In 2005, Teng's children submitted a complaint to the Hunan High People's Court, which then issued a revised judgment. In another case, She Xianglin was convicted of murdering his wife in 1994 and was sentenced to death, but this sentence was later commuted to fifteen years' imprisonment. In 2005, She's wife, presumed dead for over eleven years, “returned to life”; She was released from prison two weeks later, retried and found not guilty.

    With riveting examples, the author surveys the organization and procedure of criminal investigation, the lawyering system for criminal defense, the public prosecution system, trial proceedings, as well as criminal punishments and appeals. In doing so, He highlights the frequent causes of wrongful convictions: investigators working from forced confessions to evidence; improperly tight deadlines for solving criminal cases; prejudicial collection of evidence; misinterpretation of scientific evidence; continued use of torture to extract confessions; bowing to public opinion; nominal checks among the police, prosecutors and the courts; the dysfunction of courtroom trials; unlawfully extended custody with tunnel vision; and reduced sentencing in cases of doubt. The author also provides updated information about recent changes and reforms as well as the many continuing challenges of the criminal justice system in China.

  • About the Author(s)
    • He Jiahong, Author

      He Jiahong is professor of law and director of the Center for Common Law and the Institute of Evidence at Renmin University in Beijing. He has published dozens of law books and five crime novels in Chinese, including Hanging Devils and Black Holes, which have been translated into several languages. He is a senior adviser to the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and has often lectured at leading universities in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • The book, with its clear assessment of everyday justice-system practices, grounded in a broad understanding of the cultural foundations of China’s justice system, both ancient and modern, and its exhaustive analysis of that system’s problems, provides an invaluable tool for those in China’s innocence movement to move forward to reduce false convictions.
      —China Review
    • Since the Opening-up in the 1970s, China’s criminal justice system has been slow in reform, which is desperately needed. This book reveals this important dimension of contemporary China to the English-speaking world. The topic will not only interest legal scholars and professionals but also a general audience interested in China.
      Chenyang Li, author of The Tao Encounters the West​
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