The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate jointly issued the “Explanation on Applicable Laws when Dealing with Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Using Cults to Breach Law Enforcement” recently. It’s clear that the issuing of this judicial explanation has great significance for precisely affirming cult crimes and accurately cracking down on cult activities. What are the new features and changes of this explanation compared with the former three cult-related crime judicial explanations?
First, the new explanation is more systematic.
There were three judicial explanations on cult-related crimes previously, i.e. “Explanation on Applicable Laws when Dealing with Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Using Cult” issued in 1999, “Explanation on Applicable Laws when Dealing with Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Using Cult II” in 2001, and “Answers to Questions of Applicable Laws when Dealing with Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Using Cult” in 2002. Though clearly organized and scientific in content, the three explanations have the problems of being “scattered, confused and repeated”. By “scattered”, we mean that answers to questions such as how to convict and punish cult-related criminal cases, how to discriminate this crime from other crimes, how to judge crime numbers and criminal patterns are scattered in the three explanations, which causes inconvenience to consultation, study and enforcement. By “confused”, we mean that the logic is not rigorous enough and there is a sense of confusion. Take “Explanation II” as an example. Article 1 deals with the question of crime and non-crime. Articles 2 to 4 distinguish this crime from other crimes. Article 5 returns to the question of crime and non-crime. Articles 7 to 10 provide the difference between this crime and other crimes. The content is not organized in the logical order of crime and non-crime first, and then this crime and other crimes. By “repeated”, we mean that the content is repeated in subsequent legislation. The 2002 Explanation is actually the quantification and refinement of Explanation II. The two can be integrated into one.
The new explanation solves the problems of “scattered, confused and repeated”. First, it is complete in form. It combines three into one and thus changes the former scattered pattern. It’s very clear about how to convict joint crimes and who is to identify cult propaganda materials, which is easy to learn, study and enforce. Second, it is systematic in content. It’s more authoritative, concentrated and unified, more logical and better organized. The new explanation deletes repeated content, simplifies trivial content, and sorts out the contradictions. The articles no longer “fight each other”, reflecting the authority of law. It is organized in strict logical order of how to affirm cult organization, how to convict and punish cult-related crimes, how to identify criminal patterns, how to judge crime numbers, and how to distinguish this crime and other crimes.
Second, the new explanation targets new trends in cult crimes.
As circumstances change, cults are changing their ways to confront us. Along with this, there emerge some new trends in cult crimes. Many criminal scenes have changed from society to the Internet. The criminal pattern turns from public gatherings to instigation through technical methods and the Internet. To adapt to those new trends, the new explanation make corresponding adjustments in content. For example, as to the criminal act of advocating a cult through fake base stations and banknotes, the new explanation clarifies “imprisonment between three and seven years together with a fine”. As to cult crimes through telecommunication networks, the new explanation sets aside an article for this and provides the standards of convicting such crimes, such as how many electronic pictures are spread, how many phone calls are made, how many people are on line, how many times the information is browsed. The standards are refined and quantified, enabling criminal laws to fully play a striking and frightening role towards such cult crimes.
Third, the new explanation responds to new needs of judicial practice.
As the cult criminal patterns change and upgrade, some new problems emerge in the fight against cult crimes and need to be solved. For example, how to define the pattern of the crime of holding and carrying cult propaganda materials for the purpose of dissemination, or cult propaganda materials being seized on the spot in the course of dissemination. Should the quantity of materials be accumulated in case of making and disseminating cult propaganda materials for multiple occasions? If it’s difficult to determine whether the involved materials are for cult propaganda, who is to decide? The court itself, the public security bureau, or a third party with appraisal qualifications? The new explanation doesn’t hide conflicts nor evade problems. It provides clear and proactive responses to the new needs of judicial practice, solving difficulties effectively and gives full play to the role of Criminal Law in fighting crime and protecting society. As to criminal patterns, Article 6 of the new explanation clarifies that “in case of making and disseminating cult propaganda materials or advocating cults through telecommunication networks on multiple occasions without being punished, the quantity or number shall be accumulated.” As to the determination of cult propaganda materials, Article 15 stipulates that “if it’s difficult to determine whether the involved materials are for cult propaganda, public security organs shall be entrusted to make decision.”