Advancing Judicial System Reform

The year 2004 saw the fourth constitutional amendment whereby, “the State respects and protects human rights.” The decision adopted at the third plenary session called for improvements to the judicial protection system of human rights, listing it as a major objective of judicial reform and urging its implementation.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee adopted a resolution to abolish legal documents on re-education through labor that had been in force for more than 50 years. Upon promulgation by the Political and Judicial Commission under the CPC Central Committee of regulations that guard against unjust or false charges, the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate successively unveiled their respective regulations in that regard.

Politico-legal departments at various levels strictly enforce the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law. They accordingly punish the guilty and protect human rights to ensure that every case they handle endures the test of time.

The Ministry of Justice, under the overall arrangements made at the third plenary session, promotes reforms of the lawyers’ system. It hence improves the mechanism through which to guarantee lawyers’ practice and hands down pu-nishments for violations of the relevant rules. The aim is to enhance the construction of professional ethics and ensure that lawyers proactively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens and legal entities.


Pragmatic Progress of Judicial Reform

According to central authority requirements whereby major reforms are to take place on a trial basis before nationwide implementation, political and judicial departments first tested judicial reform in Guangdong, Jilin, Hubei, Hainan, and Qinghai provinces, and Shanghai Municipality. Trial reforms took place in improving the responsibility system, the classified management of judicial personnel, and the occupational protection of judicial personnel.

Under the leadership of the central authorities, the new round of judicial reforms is no longer confined to amending and supplementing certain mechanistic and technical problems; it now pinpoints institutional problems that have generated controversy but which no one has hitherto dared to deal with. Unified management of human resources, funds, and materials effectively solves the problem of localized jurisdiction. The principle, “Let judicial personnel who hear and make judgments of a case take the responsibility” solves a current problem amid reforms to the adjudicative power operating mechanism. Relevant departments have also changed their practice in lawsuit-related public petitions from palliative measures aimed at safeguarding stability to dealing with the crux of the matter.


Step by Step Judicial Transparency

In addition to constituting an important reform task, judicial openness, as decided at the third plenary session, is a requirement of the Constitution and law. It is moreover the sole way to assure the people of justice and fairness in every case.

To achieve judicial fairness through judicial openness, the Supreme People’s Court, with the help of modern information technology, publicizes case hearings, the making of judgments, the issue of documents, and information on enforcement. It thus achieves comprehensive openness in every link of a court’s work process, from case-filing to hearing, to making judgments, to enforcement.

Judicial openness has come into effect step by step, from publicizing the judgments of some cases to that of all cases (other than a few legally stipulated exceptions), from exposing judgment documents to disclosing the entire court trial process, and from disclosing the process of making a judgment to publicizing the enforcement of the court decision. Judicial openness lets litigants know why they have either won or lost. It also establishes the public credibility and authority of judicial departments.

New Operating Mechanism of Adjudicative Power under Construction

“Let judicial personnel who hear and make judgments of a case take the responsibility” is a key issue in reforms of the adjudicative power operating mechanism. Its aim is to insulate the country’s courts from administrative interference.

The new round of judicial reform will focus on building a responsibility system comprising a presiding judge and collegial panel. It will thus press on with the construction of an adjudicative power operating mechanism whose power and responsibility is consistent and clear, with effective supervision and complete supplementary policies. The power of the people’s courts should operate on the basis whereby adjudicative power is used independently and impartially according to law.

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