A prosecutor gives a lecture on national security in a primary school in Huaian, Jiangsu Province, on April 14 (XINHUA)
Huang Mou (alias) was the legal representative of a mold manufacturing company in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. "I thought everything was over when I was summoned by the police," Huang said. "I knew they were investigating the illegal invoices."
As Huang's micro enterprise did not have the necessary permissions to issue official tax invoices, he used a company belonging to Zheng Peng (alias) to issue 210,000 yuan ($31,101) worth of these invoices to customers.
"We found dozens of private enterprises [such as Huang's] had purchased invoices from Zheng, so we immediately conducted a comprehensive assessment of the operations of these companies and then considered the necessity of prosecuting the people involved," Huang Huihui, a prosecutor with the local people's procuratorate, said.
After the review, the procuratorate concluded that owners of the 15 companies involved committed minor crimes that did not meet the standards for criminal punishment and therefore decided not to prosecute them. These business people were then transferred to the tax authority for administrative punishment.
"However, Zheng's behavior of setting up a company to engage in illegal invoicing has caused great harm to society and should be severely punished," the prosecutor said. Zheng was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 300,000 yuan ($44,430).
Tempering justice with mercy and case impact assessment are among the new concepts and new measures procuratorial organs are incorporating into the handling of criminal cases involving enterprises. "The policies and measures have played a significant role in optimizing the business environment," Dai Yaping, President of Suzhou-based Tus-Design Group Co. Ltd., said.
In addition to safeguarding a sound business environment, procuratorial organs have contributed to the advance of law-based governance in China through strengthening legal supervision over the recent decade.
"Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, procuratorial organs have exercised legal supervision over criminal, civil, administrative and public interest litigations in accordance with the law and provided a solid judicial guarantee for high-quality economic and social development," Tong Jianming, Executive Deputy Procurator General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), said at a press conference on July 18. "We are committed to delivering fairness and justice in every single judicial case."
According to the opinions on strengthening legal supervision by procuratorial organs in the new era issued by the CPC Central Committee in June 2021, people's procuratorates are not only a part of China's judiciary that ensures the uniform and strict enforcement of national laws, but also an important force to protect national and public interests.
A mock trial was held on June 17 at the education base jointly built by the No.4 Middle School in Xiangyang, Hubei Province, and the city's procuratorate. Students of the school played the roles of the chief judge, judge, prosecutor, defender and defendant.
"The mock trial was based on an intentional jury case involving young students," Liang Li, who has a dual identity as procurator general of the procuratorate of Xiangyang and vice principal for rule of law education programs at the school, told the Procuratorial Daily. "Through the activity, we aimed to introduce students to the consequences of breaking the law so as to better prevent juvenile delinquency and promote their healthy growth."
More than 39,000 prosecutors across the country are serving as part-time vice principals in more than 77,000 primary and secondary schools, according to the SPP. Their responsibilities include taking charge of legal education programs, overseeing works to protect students' rights and interests and prevent juvenile delinquency, and educating students who seriously misbehave, according to a document jointly issued by the SPP and the Ministry of Education, which took effect on January 1.
Protection of minors is a priority for procuratorial organs. In 2018, the SPP established a procuratorial office specializing in juvenile delinquency cases.
"Two-way protection" is a fundamental principle for prosecutors in dealing with juvenile crimes, Tong said.
"In handling such cases, we should educate and help young criminals to the maximum extent while exhausting our ability to rescue juvenile victims," Tong explained. According to him, the juvenile non-arrest rate in the first half of this year was 63 percent, up 29 percentage points compared with the same period in 2018.
During the same period, the number of prosecutions involving school violence and bullying crimes dropped 84.6 percent from the same period in 2018, according to Tong.
A guardian of the public
Over the past decade, prosecutors have found greater scope for their abilities.
Two provincial-level cultural relics that were in disrepair, located deep in a remote mountainous area in Xishui County, Hubei, have been preserved with the help of local prosecutors.
The prosecutors from the public interest litigation department of the local procuratorate noticed the items when they audited the distribution and protection status of cultural relics at the county museum in April.
They visited the two relics and asked local residents for information about their condition. "We hope the government can restore them as soon as possible," said one of the local villagers.
Keeping in mind the aspirations of the local people, the prosecutors decided to file a public litigation case requiring to restore the relics. They sent procuratorial suggestions to the cultural relics authority on the issue.
The cultural relics authority organized experts to investigate the site and allocated 340,000 yuan ($50,320) for repairs and maintenance. In July, the repair work was completed and the road leading to the relics was built.
"Public interest litigation is a brand-new function of procuratorial organs, and it is a major reform launched after the 18th National Congress of the CPC," Hu Weilie, Director General of the Eighth Procuratorial Office of the SPP, said at the press conference.
According to Hu, over the past five years, procuratorial organs have adhered to a people-centered principle and have regarded safeguarding public interests as the ultimate goal of performing their legal supervision duties. To date, they have filed 670,000 public interest litigation cases since 2017.
"Procuratorial organs will act under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law, uphold the people-centered principle, and strengthen legal supervision, contributing to the endeavor to turn China into a great modern socialist country in all respects," Tong said.
(Print Edition Title: Role of Prosecutors)
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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