Party points way for rule of law

Key meet­ing agrees on penal­ties for those abus­ing their power

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE in Beijing and ZHANG YUWEI in New York

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials will be pe­nal­ized and held ac­count­able if they are found to have in­ter­fered in law­suits, un­der a decision at a key meet­ing to ad­vance the rule of law.

The move is aimed at en­sur­ing that ju­di­cial power is ex­er­cised in­de­pen­dently, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued on Thurs­day after the Fourth Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China.

The meet­ing de­cided that the top court will ini­ti­ate a pi­lot project to set up cross-ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion courts and procu­ra­torates. This is ex­pected to pre­vent lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from in­ter­fer­ing in ju­di­cial cases.

The state­ment also said that a mech­a­nism will be es­tab­lished to re­cruit judges and pros­e­cu­tors from among qual­i­fied lawyers and le­gal ex­perts.

Evan El­lis, a pro­fes­sor of Latin Amer­i­can stud­ies at the US Army War Col­lege Strate­gic Stud­ies In­sti­tute, Carlisle, Penn­syl­va­nia, who stud­ies Latin Amer­ica’s re­la­tion­ships with China, said the high­lights of the Fourth Ple­nary have a “promis­ing fo­cus” in terms of the trans­parency of gov­ern­ment af­fairs and build­ing a law-abid­ing so­ci­ety.

“It res­onates well in the US,” said El­lis. “It is not only im­por­tant for China, but also for China’s re­la­tions with other coun­tries.” A com­mu­niqué out of the ses­sion on Thurs­day showed its fo­cus on “com­pre­hen­sively ad­vanc­ing the rule of law” in China.

Zhiqun Zhu, di­rec­tor of the China In­sti­tute at Buck­nell Univer­sity in Penn­syl­va­nia, said the com­mu­niqué demon­strates the party’s com­mit­ment to gov­ern by up­hold­ing the

• Ed­i­to­rial,

• Com­ment, con­sti­tu­tion.

“It sug­gests that the party is mov­ing from talk­ing about rule of law to im­ple­ment­ing it in China’s po­lit­i­cal life now,” Zhu said. “It is part of the on­go­ing deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal re­form that the party pre­sides over after suc­cess­fully in­tro­duc­ing eco­nomic and so­cial re­forms in the past three decades,” said Zhu.

Ge­of­frey Sant, spe­cial coun­sel at US-based law firm Dorsey & Whit­ney LLP, said some points made in the com­mu­niqué showed that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment views the “ju­di­ciary as an ap­pro­pri­ate check on lo­cal of­fi­cials and lo­cal law-mak­ing”.

“It is par­tic­u­larly strik­ing that the com­mu­niqué states that the gov­ern­ment will take ac­tions to avoid let­ting lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­ter­fere with court cases,” said Sant. “This seems to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of the PRC gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to crack down on cor­rup­tion. The com­mu­niqué ap­pears in­tended to send a warn­ing that the gov­ern­ment will crack down fur­ther on those who would at­tempt to in­ter­fere with le­gal cases for their own per­sonal ben­e­fit,” he added.

The meet­ing, held from Mon­day to Thurs­day, was presided over by the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, the coun­try’s top lead­er­ship body. It adopted a decision from the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee on “ma­jor is­sues con­cern­ing com­pre­hen­sively ad­vanc­ing the rule of law”.

This is the first time that a ple­nary ses­sion of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee has taken the rule of law as its cen­tral theme. A to­tal of 363 mem­bers and al­ter­nate mem­bers of the com­mit­tee at­tended the meet­ing.

The main aim of the Party’s drive to ad­vance the rule of law is to “form a sys­tem serv­ing the so­cial­ist rule of law with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics” and build a coun­try with so­cial­ist rule of law.

“To re­al­ize the rule of law, the coun­try should be ruled in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion,” the state­ment stated.

The Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the coun­try’s top leg­is­la­ture, should play a bet­ter role in su­per­vis­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion, it said.

As­sess­ment of of­fi­cials will con­sider how they im­ple­ment the rule of law, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment. Ying Song­nian, a pro­fes­sor at China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law, said the plenum has drawn up a blue­print for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of “gov­er­nance by law”.

Gov­ern­ment lead­ers should set an ex­am­ple in abid­ing by laws and reg­u­la­tions, but many of­fi­cials have vi­o­lated laws through cor­rup­tion and abuse of power, he said.

Some cen­tral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments have made a good start by stream­lin­ing ap­proval pro­ce­dures and del­e­gat­ing some of their ap­proval pow­ers to lower level au­thor­i­ties, Ying added.

Ma Huaide, vice-pres­i­dent of the China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law, said that un­der the cur­rent ap­praisal sys­tem, many gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials make eco­nomic growth the top pri­or­ity and ne­glect the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rule of law.

Re­search car­ried out by Ma last year found that only 36 of 53 ci­ties sam­pled, in­clud­ing Beijing and Shang­hai, re­ceived a pass­ing mark in an as­sess­ment of “gov­er­nance by law”.

No­ne­ofthecityau­thor­i­tiess­cored higher than 80 out of 100 points.

Law­suits should be more trans­par­ent, and the law en­force­ment process should be su­per­vised more ef­fec­tively, Ma said.

George Koo, a Sil­i­con Val­ley­based business ad­viser serv­ing global high-tech com­pa­nies for 30 years, said the sum­mary of the com­mu­nique con­sists mostly of over­view state­ments of how China will be gov­erned.

“Fu­ture out­come will de­pend on how th­ese over­view ob­jec­tives are ac­tu­ally im­ple­men­ta­tion. What I find most en­cour­ag­ing is the em­pha­sis on rule of law. If rule of law be­comes the stan­dard pro­ce­dure and ev­ery per­son is the same be­fore the law, then China would have come a long way from to­day,” Koo said. Con­tact the writ­ers at an­bai­jie@ chi­nadaily.com.cn and zhangyuwei@chi­nadai­lyusa.com Amy He in New York, Chang Jun in San Francisco and Liu Chang in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this story

LAN HONG­GUANG / XIN­HUA

Top lead­ers in­clud­ing Party chief Xi Jin­ping at­tend the Fourth Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in Beijing.

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