Justifiable defense cases increasing

Updated: Mar 25, 2024 China Daily Print
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Fatal Guangxi fight example of how prosecutors have focused on concept

China's top procuratorial body reported a significant increase in justifiable defense cases last year, highlighting efforts to promote a more nuanced understanding of the legal concept.

According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate's annual work report for 2023, which was approved by the national legislature on March 11, procuratorial organs nationwide deemed 261 cases as justifiable defense, representing a 25.5 percent increase compared to 2022.

The report emphasized the top procuratorate's focus on upholding the concept of justifiable defense.

In October 2020, a man surnamed Huang, who was dining at a fast-food restaurant run by a man surnamed Chen and his wife, surnamed Xue, got into a fight with another man at a neighboring table.

Chen intervened in the dispute and persuaded Huang to leave.

Huang came back to the restaurant the next day and demanded compensation of 2,500 yuan ($350) from Chen. Chen refused and called the police.

When the police arrived to investigate, Huang was questioned and allowed to leave the restaurant.

Several days later, Huang returned to the restaurant to again demand compensation, but was again persuaded to leave. Later that afternoon, he returned a third time and, failing to obtain compensation, slashed Xue's face with a kitchen knife and then threatened Chen with it.

Chen then grabbed two knives from the kitchen and fought with Huang. Huang was injured during the fight and died despite rescue efforts. Xue sustained severe injuries, while Chen's injuries were minor.

In February last year, the public security organs transferred Chen for prosecution on suspicion of causing intentional injury. After review, the procuratorial organs in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region deemed Chen's actions to be legitimate justifiable defense and made the decision to not pursue charges.

"The restaurant owner faced a life-threatening situation," explained Yang Jianbo, deputy director of the Supreme People's Procuratorate's general office. "Determining the facts and applying the law accurately presented a challenge."

Yang emphasized that prosecutors avoided judging the situation based solely on the assailant's death and instead focused on factual evidence and legal principles.

The top procuratorate's report reiterated the principle that legal actions should not be compromised by unlawful conduct. It also highlighted the promotion of a law-based society where the legal framework is accurately applied.

Justifiable defense, despite being outlined in China's Criminal Law, has historically been a complex issue due to interpretation challenges and misconceptions. The report acknowledged these problems, noting the past prevalence of the belief that "whoever is injured or killed is right".

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