CPC sets new blueprint for rule of law

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 23, 2014
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The Communist Party of China (CPC) set a new blueprint for rule of law in the world's second largest economy during a key meeting this week, promising sweeping judical reforms while hailing the overarching role of the Constitution in the country's legal system.

The Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing from Oct. 20 to 23.

According to a communique issued after the meeting, the overall target of the CPC's current drive to advance rule of law is to form a system serving "the socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics" and build a country under "the socialist rule of law."

China will work to build a law-abiding government, and will ensure the leadership of the CPC in "the socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics," the communique read.

It also pledged to rule the country in accordance with the Constitution.

This is the first time a plenary session of the CPC Central Committee has taken rule of law as its central theme.

According to the communique, the four-day meeting adopted a decision from the CPC Central Committee on "major issues concerning comprehensively advancing rule of law," and heard a work report of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

It also saw the endorsement of the CPC's prior decisions to revoke the Party membership of five high-ranking officials -- including Li Dongsheng, Jiang Jiemin, Wang Yongchun, Li Chuncheng and Wan Qingliang -- and a People's Liberation Army general Yang Jinshan.

Three of the above six, namely Li Dongsheng, Jiang and Yang, had previously been members of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

Their vacancies were filled by chief of the National Bureau of Statistics Ma Jiantang, State Administration of Religious Affairs head Wang Zuo'an and Mao Wanchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Shaanxi Provincial Committee.

"No meddling"

The carefully-worded communique promised legal reforms that are aimed at giving judges more independence and limiting local officials' influence over courts and cases.

According to the communique, they will develop a system in which officials will be given demerits or held accountable if they are found interfering in judicial cases.

Officials will be criticized in public notices if they influence judicial activities or meddle in a particular case, it said, adding that judicial injustice can inflict a "lethal damage" to social justice.

Prof. Ma Huaide, vice president of China University of Political Science and Law, noted that this is the first time that the Party has explicitly banned officials from meddling in judicial cases and vowed to hold violators accountable in a CPC document.

"Only by ensuring judicial organs' independent practice of justice, independent from influences such as administrative orders, personal relations or money, could the public feel the fairness and justice in the judicial process," he said.

China has been pushing for deeper judicial reforms to address public concerns over capability and fairness of Chinese courts which are receiving more cases than ever.

In 2013, the country's local courts heard more than 14.22 millions cases, up 7.4 percent from 2012.

Hailing justice as the "lifeline" of rule of law, the communique said China will improve the system in which judicial powers are exercised and strengthen supervision over judicial activities.

To further boost judicial independence, the Supreme People's Court will set up circuit courts to facilitate the handling of judicial cases filed by the public from local communities.

The country will explore establishing courts and procuratorates with jurisdictions spanning across different administrative regions, and building a system in which prosecuting bodies can institute public interest litigations, according to the communique.

Trial judges and procurators will assume lifelong accountability to their cases, and public participation will be ensured in judicial procedures, it read.

No illegal mitigation of a sentence is allowed, and the handling of judicial cases should not be influenced by personal connections, favors or bribery, according to the communique.

Constitution rules

Another encouraging feature of the CPC's plan this week to advance rule of law is the recurrent reference to the Constitution as the "core" of the country's socialist system of laws.

"To realize the rule of law, the country should be ruled in line with the Constitution," the document read.

The words mirrored a speech of Xi in late 2012 when he stressed that "no organization or individual has the special right to overstep the Constitution and law, and any violation of the Constitution and the law must be investigated."

Law experts also see "rule of Constitution" as a higher level of rule of law.

Prof. Xu Guangjian, vice dean of the School of Public Administration at the Renmin University of China, believes that the terms "rule of Constitution" and "governing in line with Constitution" are an important step ahead in the rule of law construction, as they present a deeper and more profound sense of rule of law.

"To observe the Constitution is not just the citizens' obligation, but is also integrated as part of the ruling party's governance philosophy. I think it is one of the highlights in the reforms indicated in the communique," Xu said.

Thursday's communique also vowed to enforce the implementation of China's Constitution through a constitutional supervision system under the National People's Congress.

"Efforts to adhere to the rule of law should give priority to the rule of Constitution, and to adhere to the governing by law should put the governing in line with Constitution in the first place," said the communique.

The system to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and to supervise the implementation should be improved, it said.

The National People's Congress and its Standing Committee, meanwhile, should play a better role in supervising the Constitution's implementation, the communique added.

Moreover, procedural and systemic rules regarding the interpretation of the Constitution should be improved, the communique said, urging those with national and local leadership positions in legislature to have their legislative power ensured.

Party leadership

Thursday's communique also highlighted once again that the country will ensure the CPC's leading role in its quest toward rule of law, citing the Party's leadership "the most fundamental guarantee" in the process.

"The CPC's leadership is consistent with the socialist rule of law," it said.

The rule of law needs the CPC's leadership while the CPC's rule depends on the rule of law, the document further explained.

Defined by the Constitution as the country's leader, the Party should take the lead in all aspects of promoting the rule of law, it said.

"Only if the CPC rules the country in line with the law, will people's rights as the master of the nation be realized and the state and social affairs be handled in line with law," the statement said.

Prof. Ma from China University of Political Science and Law stressed that to advance the rule of law is also to reinforce the leadership by the CPC, not weaken it.

"The leadership by the CPC has been enshrined in the country's Constitution and to ensure the leadership is a natural requirement in the course of promoting rule of law," Ma said.

He noted that efforts to adhere to governing by law should be a basic pattern of CPC's leading the public to govern the country.

"The CPC, as the country's ruling party, must take the lead in advancing the rule of law, and itself must act and use its power in line with the Constitution and law," he added.

Meanwhile, the communique added that the rule of law not only requires the CPC to rule the country in line with law but also to manage itself in line with Party rules and disciplines.

The communique called for improved regulations and system of the Party to strengthen self-discipline and required Party members to take the lead in abiding by state laws.

The effectiveness of implementing rule of law will be a significant index in judging the work of officials at various levels and will be added to their performance appraisal system, the communique read.

It called on all Party members to help implement the CPC Central Committee's major decisions of comprehensively deepening reform and promoting rule of law, and to have the "strategic willpower" to maintain sustained and sound economic development, improve people's livelihoods, clear up undesirable work style and be strict with its members.

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