Xi’s Decade to Bring Independent Judiciary?

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Jan. 18 – An annual report on Chinese judicial reform has been released by three legal experts from the Beijing Institute of Technology calling for reforms in China’s judicial structure, and that this should be targeted as a priority for China’s government.

Stating that judicial independence should not be seen purely as a concept unique to Western democracies, the report states that “Many socialist countries have also endorsed the principle of judicial independence. It is not a matter of being capitalist or socialist, and socialism should not exclude judicial independence.”

There has been growing criticism of the Communist Party’s overriding power within the Chinese court system. The three experts, while acknowledging that judicial reform should be a gradual process, did however lay out a road map in the report. Reforms could begin, they suggested, by banning high-level courts from intervening in lower-level rulings, and by barring a presiding judge from intervening in case examinations by other judges.

The report, which was released at Caijing Magazine’s legal forum held yesterday in Beijing, attracted support from Jiang Ping, former president of the Chinese University of Political Science and Law.

“Any judicial reform should not be watered down or full of ‘Chinese characteristics,’” stated Jiang. “It should be on a par with international standards. The soul of judicial reform should be judicial independence.”

These sentiments were echoed by Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University.

“We can’t talk about judicial independence if the party’s political and legal affairs committees still have the power to overrule the proceedings of individual courts,” said Zhang.

In the meantime, Xi Jinping has promised to strengthen the Chinese legal system since his appointment as the Party’s general secretary, saying the government needs to improve the credibility of legal affairs. This has been backed up by China’s new Head of Security Meng Jianzhu stating at a National Law & Order Conference held earlier this month that the government would proceed with reforms relating to the judiciary later this year. The right to an independent judiciary is part of the Chinese national constitution, but has never been operational.

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