Premier Li Keqiang’s own double standards – fundamental principle of law & presumption of guilt

The newly appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a televised press conference this morning accused an American reporter of “presumption of guilt” when the latter asked “[…] will China stop the cyber hacking against the US since it has now become an issue of American national security?”

To the reporter’s question, Li said:

“你说到的黑客攻击问题,这可以说是一个世界性的问题,中国本身就是主要的被黑客攻击的受害者,中方不仅不支持,而且反对黑客攻击行为。刚才你说的话我怎么有有罪推定的感觉啊?我想我们还是少一些没有根据的相互指责,多做一些维护网络安全的实事。”

(The issue of cyber hacking you mentioned can be said to be a global issue. China herself is a major victim of such hacking. China not only does not support but opposes cyber hacking as well. I seem to sense a presumption of guilt in what you asked. I think we should as well make less groundless accusations against each other and make more concrete efforts to maintain cyber security.)

So, “…presumption of guilt…”

Li’s answer assumed a higher, arbitrary, and legal authority that imposes rules on the governments of the US and China. This authority, however, does not and will never exist.

“Presumption of guilt” is a principle of law. It means that the accused are considered guilty until they prove their innocence or the government completely fails to prove its case. This principle prescribes that the accused have the burden of proving their innocence.

The principle to the contrary, “presumption of innocence,” is held to be more desired in that it relieves the accused of the burden to prove their innocence. However, according to the same source linked to above, even this concept is a misnomer:

The presumption of innocence, an ancient tenet of Criminal Law, is actually a misnomer. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the presumption of the innocence of a criminal defendant is best described as an assumption of innocence that is indulged in the absence of contrary evidence (Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 98 S. Ct. 1930, 56 L. Ed. 2d 468 [1978]). It is not considered evidence of the defendant’s innocence, and it does not require that a mandatory inference favorable to the defendant be drawn from any facts in evidence.

Since the governments of both the US and China will not take their accusations of cyber hacking against each other to a higher, third-party organization for arbitration or a ruling, their accusations are actually arguments resulting from the concerns about their respective national security interests. By definition, parties to an argument can of course accuse each other of wrongdoing as long as they assume that their complaints are well grounded, just as Mr Li at the press conference accused the American reporter of “presumption of guilt.”

3 thoughts on “Premier Li Keqiang’s own double standards – fundamental principle of law & presumption of guilt

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