Reform of the Chinese legal system is desperately needed but the draft of large-scale amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law shows that the current exercise in law reform is potentially a double-edged sword.

Commendably, the draft law moves much closer toward the accused having a right to silence by recognizing the right against self-incrimination, saying "no person may be forced to prove his or her own guilt."

Traditionally, China has emphasized confessions and torture is still commonplace. In fact, there have been highly publicized cases where men serving prison terms for murder after confessing under torture were released when the "victims" turned up alive.