China found almost 100 percent of criminal defendants guilty last year, figures from the country’s top court showed Sunday, even as authorities pledged to reduce wrongful convictions.

A total of 1,039 accused were “declared innocent” by Chinese courts in 2015, Zhou Qiang, head of the Supreme People’s Court, said in a report to the annual session of the Communist-controlled National People’s Congress (NPC) legislature.

prison jail
File photo: Alexandre Lazaro via Flickr.

In contrast 1.232 million were found guilty, a conviction rate of 99.92 percent.

The corresponding figures for 2014 were 778 acquittals and 1.184 million convictions, according to Zhou’s report last year.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in China and rights groups say suspects often do not have an effective defence in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.

Courts are politically controlled, with activists who come to trial virtually certain to be found guilty.

Zhou Qiang.
Zhou Qiang.

Public anger has mounted over miscarriages of justice, and in recent years courts have reversed death sentences in a handful of cases marred.

In February alone, five men were acquited of murder charges for which they had been wrongly jailed more than two decades earlier.

Chinese courts “corrected” 1,357 verdicts in 2015, the report said, but only explained the outcome of three cases.

The country should “learn a serious lesson” from the cases, Zhou said in the report, and “improve the mechanisms which can effectively prevent and correct false and wrong cases in a timely manner”.

The Communist Party has pledged to ensure the “rule of law with Chinese characteristics” and said it will lessen the influence of local officials over courts.

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