On January 25, 2017, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued the Explanation on Applicable Laws when Dealing with Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Using Cult to Disturb Law Enforcement (hereinafter referred to as the new explanation), sorting out, integrating and adding to previous judicial explanations and regulatory legal documents. The new explanation includes 16 articles, which provide for the definition of cults, behavioral patterns, conviction and punishment of cult crimes, number of crimes, etc. It’s clear to see that the new explanation covers all aspects of cult crimes and even eliminates all the previous legislative dead ends. It’s been just over a year since the revision of Article 300 of Criminal Law by the Amendment 9 of Criminal Law. Why did the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate elaborate cult crimes so eagerly?
The truth is that previous judicial explanations and regulatory legal documents were not sufficient for dealing with current cult criminal cases despite the revision of Article 300 of Criminal Law, which provides for the crime of organizing and using superstitious sects, secret societies, cults and superstition to disturb law enforcement. For example, a person with the surname of You in Huludao of Liaoning Province held 94 banknotes printed with cult characters and 92 discs containing cult content. Is his act severe or not? Liu Zhimin in Chongqing made various cult propaganda materials on the Internet. How to calculate the various materials? “The Disciples” in Hubei Province carried out business activities and “rejuvenation plan” with “charity money” donated by its followers and collected over 40 million RMB illegally. How to define the money collecting actions of “The Disciples”? New problems emerge continuously under new circumstances. Previous judicial explanations and regulatory legal documents didn’t provide answers. For this reason, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate sped up the judicial explanation of Article 300 of Criminal Law in order to improve legislation on cult crimes and help crack down on cult crimes.
The new explanation focuses on the hot issues in law enforcement and solves the above questions. It also has the following three features.
First, it elaborates on the behavioral patterns of cult organizations. Article 2 lists 12 behavioral patterns, which expands the patterns provided for by previous judicial explanations and regulatory legal documents. The newly added content includes: forcing others to join or preventing others from quitting cults with violence, coercion or other means; engaging in cult activities again after being convicted with criminal responsibility or receiving administrative punishment in the previous two years for engaging in cult activities; inducing over 50 people to join cults; collecting 1 million RMB or causing 1 million RMB of economic losses. The new explanation provides an answer to the definition of the nature of money collection by “The Disciples” in Hubei Province. The detailed definition of criminal patterns helps expand the fight against cult crimes.
Second, the new explanation quantifies the conviction standards. As to the act of making and spreading cult propaganda materials and advocating cults through the telecommunications network, the new explanation provides for numerical standards in Item 11 and Item 12 of Article 2. It also provides for an accumulative calculation method of quantity and number so that the judiciary is better equipped to affirm criminal acts in practice. According to Section 2 of Article 6, which says that “if various types or forms are involved, the quantity shall be calculated according to different standards and accumulative calculation shall apply”, the question of various cult propaganda materials in Liu Zhimin case in Chongqing is easily solved.
Third, it specifies conviction standards. Article 300 of the revised Criminal Law introduces the legal term of “less serious act”. However, in practice, there are no specific standards on how to define “less serious act”. The judicial staff has to rely on their discretionary power to make judgments. This is the problem in the You case in Huludao of Liaoning Province. The new explanation provides for the definition of “less serious act” in Article 4, which is “(I) acts defined in Item 1 to Item 7 of Article 2 but with lighter harm to society; (II) acts defined in Item 8 to Item 12 of Article 2, with number or quantity reaching above 1/5 of corresponding standards.” In addition, Article 6 and Article 8 also make detailed definitions on “especially serious act” and “acts deserving lawful heavier punishment”.
(Editor in charge: Xiucai)