Justice in China is swift but not sure. Criminal investigations nearly always end in guilty pleas. Prosecutors almost never lose cases brought to trial. The New York Times reports that recent disclosures of wrongful convictions like that of Qin Yanhong, 35, a steel-mill worker who was beaten to coerce a confession in a rape case, have exposed deep flaws in a judicial system that often answers more to political leaders than the law. “Our public security system is the product of a dictatorship,” Qin, who has been released, wrote his family when he was on death row. “Police use dictatorial measures on anyone who resists them. Ordinary people have no way to defend themselves.”
The law has become a front line in China’s struggle to modernize under one-party rule, says the Times. Yet Qin’s persecution and similar miscarriages of justice that have come to light this year suggest that China is struggling with a fundamental question: Do officials serve the law, or do laws serve the officials? Is the Communist Party creating rule of law or rule by law?