Chief justice, procurator: carrying public hopes for justice

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Chinese lawmakers on Friday elected Zhou Qiang president of the Supreme People's Court, making the 52-year-old the 10th chief justice since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

On the same day, during the annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, NPC deputies also re-elected Cao Jianming, now 57, to a second term as procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Cao is the PRC's ninth chief procurator.

As the country's highest judicial organ, the Supreme People's Court oversees the administration of justice by local people's courts at multiple levels, as well as special courts. The president of the Supreme People's Court is also the country's chief justice.

Similarly, as the highest procuratorial organ, the Supreme People's Procuratorate leads local procuratorates at multiple levels and special procuratorates in performing their legal supervision functions.

The head of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, also the country's chief procurator, leads the country's 246,000 prosecutors at all levels.

Each with a master's degree in law, the newly-installed chief justice and procurator-general are carrying the weight of public expectations for justice.


Born in central China's Hubei Province in 1960, Zhou spent two years as an "educated youth" -- a term referring to young intellectuals dispatched to the countryside from cities to learn from farmers from the 1950s through the 1970s.

In 1978, he enrolled in the law department of the Southwest College of Political Science and Law, now known as the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, in the city of Chongqing Municipality. He earned a master's degree in law at the school.

He joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in September 1978.

After graduating in 1985, Zhou held a number of posts in the Ministry of Justice.

In November 1995, he left the ministry to become a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Youth League (CYL) Central Committee. He served on the CYL Central Committee for 11 consecutive years.

In June 1998, Zhou was elected first secretary of the CYL Central Committee and headed the country's largest youth organization for eight years, serving the longest term of service as first secretary since 1978.

Under his eight-year leadership, the CYL initiated a host of activities, including efforts to protect the Yangtze River and Yellow River and encourage college graduates to volunteer to work in underdeveloped western regions.

In 2006, Zhou left the CYL for CPC and government posts in central China's Hunan Province. He served as deputy secretary of the CPC Hunan Provincial Committee, as well as acting governor and governor of Hunan. At that time, he was one of the youngest provincial governors in the country.

After assuming office in Hunan, he made public the limits of power vested in the province's 55 administrative enforcement departments.

He proposed strengthening the development of administrative procedures. For that purpose, he invited a number of leading experts to participate in Hunan's administrative legislation.

In October 2008, the Hunan Provincial Administrative Procedure Provisions were unveiled, the first of their kind in the country.

In 2010, Zhou Qiang was appointed the provincial CPC chief of Hunan, at which time he proposed governing Hunan by law.

In July 2011, the CPC Hunan Provincial Committee adopted the Essentials of Governing Hunan by Law, a guideline on exercising the rule of law in the province for the next decade.

"Via improvements in the rule of law, we can make people's democracy more institutionalized, standardized and procedural and on the track of the rule of law, expand citizens' orderly political participation," Zhou said.

With Zhou as its governor and CPC chief, Hunan witnessed rapid socioeconomic development.

In 2012, the province's GDP exceeded 2 trillion yuan (321.6 billion U.S. dollars). The Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan city cluster has played an increasingly important role as Hunan's core growth center.


Born in Shanghai in 1955, Cao once worked in a restaurant.

In 1979, he was admitted to the Shanghai-based East China College of Political Science and Law, now known as the East China University of Political Science and Law, and majored in law.

In 1986, he received a master's degree in law.

After graduating, he stayed at the college and served successively as a lecturer, department head, executive vice president and president of the college.

Cao started to study China's reform and development from the perspective of law during his postgraduate studies, which helped him make a name for himself in academia.

As of 1994, the CPC Central Committee had started to hold law-studying lectures for its Political Bureau members. Cao, then 39 years old, gave the first lecture.

He lectured on the international business and trade law system and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which drew wide attention both inside and outside of China.

In 1998, he gave the top leadership another lecture on financial security and the construction of the legal system.

Delivered against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis, the lecture was highly valued and followed by a raft of legal measures aimed at maintaining financial security and warding off financial risks.

In 1999, Cao left for Beijing to assume the post of vice president of the Supreme People's Court and concurrently that of president of the National Judges College.

In 2008, he was elected procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, China's chief prosecuting body.

Since being elected procurator-general, Cao has explicitly required procuratorates to intensify legal supervision, self-supervision and personnel development.

Under his leadership, procuratorates nationwide have adopted a string of new measures to serve economic development and enhance people's livelihoods.

In some major fields, procuratorates have staged a series of legal supervision campaigns, fought crime that could compromise food and drug safety and strengthened investigations into duty-related crimes.

As a jurist, Cao attaches much importance to the supervisory nature of procuratorial work, stressing that the principle of the rule of law should be embodied and judicial rules should be obeyed.

He has also called on supervisors to consciously subject themselves to supervision, as well as stated that intensifying self-supervision is equally important as strengthening legal supervision.

Procuratorates have started recording and videotaping interrogations for suspects involved in duty-related crimes, and transferred the power to approve arrests in such cases to procuratorates at the next higher level.

Procuratorates have also centralized case management and addressed their own violations of laws and rules while handling cases.

These moves have further standardized law enforcement and improved the image of law executors.


China's legal circle expects much from Zhou and Cao, both professionally trained.

It is hoped that in future reforms in the justice system, courts and procuratorates will continue to reinforce judicial authority and cultivate highly-qualified judges and procurators, said Liu Hongyu, a lawyer and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body.

Liu said he also expects courts and procuratorates to further protect the rights of litigants and lawyers, make trials for major and influential cases public and subject themselves to public supervision.

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