How China Justifies Empty Witness Chairs

Caijing Magazine writes about a flaw in China’s legal system:

…Most witness testimony is currently considered at court hearings through written records, not face-to-face contact. Cross-examination and fact verification are paper procedures as well.

Some experts say this courtroom practice is a procedural defect and Achilles’ heel for the nation’s legal system because it can compromise trials and diminish the public credibility of decisions, even when entirely justified.

[…] The consequences can be chaotic. Zhang once ran across a file containing the records of two testimonies by the same witness. The only difference was that the witness initially claimed to be at the scene of a crime, but later testified he wasn’t there. Zhang said he never uncovered the truth because he couldn’t get the witness into a courtroom for questioning about the discrepancy.

This is a predicament for judicial proceedings despite the Criminal Procedure Law’s Article 37, which says a defense lawyer, with consent from witnesses or other relevant individuals, can ask the court hearing the case to order witnesses to appear and testify in court.

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