China Focus: Shanghai pilots greater judicial independence

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 13, 2014
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China's financial hub of Shanghai on Sunday initiated a judicial reform pilot to make judges more accountable and curb government interventions in courts.

Pioneering China's judicial reform, the Shanghai pilot cover measures to improve management and job security of judicial staff, enhance accountability of judges and unify the personnel and finance management of local courts, according to the office entrusted with pushing ahead the reform.

In an effort to improve professionalism, a clear division will be set between judges and procurators, other judicial staff, and the administrative personnel, who will be placed under separate management, according to the reform plan.

Judges and procurators will also be allowed to be selected from lawyers, legal scholars and other legal professionals.

A responsibility system will strengthen the roles of trial judges and make them work in a more independent manner, changing the practice that their rulings have to go through excessive signing and approvals by the court's chief justices.

The reform also targets the decision-making power of the judicial council, limiting their use in complicated cases on which the collegial panel showed a major split.

"The responsibility system aims to tackle the administrative intervention in courts and avoid the practice of 'trying but not judging'," said Zou Rong, professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law.

Greater judicial power will also come with greater responsibility, as trial judges and procurators will assume a lifelong accountability to their cases, which means they will be called into account for previous miscarriage of justice.

The plan will also require the judges and procurators at district or county-level courts to be nominated by provincial-level judicial authority. Funds of local courts will also come from the provincial, rather than the local finance.

Tang Xiaotian, vice secretary-general of Shanghai Law Society, said the financial independence will guard the courts from the influence of the local government.

"When the courts' coin bags are held at the hands of the local governments, their independence will be affected, as they are prone to the lobbying of local officials," Yang said.

The eastern municipality of Shanghai has been chosen to spearhead the country's judicial reform. Its reform guidelines was approved by China's Leading Group for Overall Reform, led by President Xi Jinping, on June 6.

China has been pushing for a deeper judicial reform to address public complaints over the capability and fairness problems in Chinese courts.

The Supreme People's Court on Wednesday published a guideline for judicial reforms over the next five years. The guideline includes 45 major measures in eight key judicial issues such as personnel, finance and judicial selection, most of which are included in the Shanghai reform plan. Endi

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