“This is a good phenomenon, a progress,” said Professor Xu Chongde of Renmin University Law School, an authority in the constitutional jurisprudence, commenting on the fact lawmakers in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, had voted down a work report delivered by the city people’s court.
Professor Han Dayuan, vice-head of Renmin University Law School, also hailed the action as a milestone event in the progress of democratic politics in China.
At the fourth session of the 12th Shenyang Municipal People’s Congress, which concluded on February 14, the work report for the year 2000 delivered by a vice president of the municipal people’s intermediate court was rejected. This is the first time a court report has been turned down in the history of People’s Congress meetings at various levels.
As one of the drafters for China’s 1982 Constitution, Professor Xu said, “This shows that the People’s Congress system is gradually becoming a body with power in the real sense. According to China’s constitutional government system, People’s Congresses at various levels supervise the work of governments, procurators’ offices and courts at corresponding levels.
“In the past, People’s Congresses were always dubbed as rubber stamp bodies, or an ornament. Actually, delegates to the People’s Congress should speak for their constituency.
“The event is a good education on democracy,” he said. “It will certainly produce positive effect on the public’s election of delegates to the People’s Congress in placing higher demands on them.”
Professor Han Dayuan said, “Many reports which should be turned down were adopted in the past when delegates to the People’s Congress failed to properly exercise their power of supervision. The adoption of a local court report does not truly mean that the public is satisfied with judicial work.”
Han expects that more places will follow suit. “People’s Congresses making substantial inspection of the work reports by government, procuratorate and court, and appraise their work according to the people’s will, is an indication that our democratic system is getting more mature,” he said.
But in the meanwhile, as some experts point out, the event has revealed loopholes in China’s legislation. Who should bear the responsibility? What kinds of responsibilities should be assumed? The existing laws have no detailed provisions in this regard and such loopholes should be plugged as soon as possible, according to Han.
He said that People’s Congresses exercise supervision in accordance with the Organic Law of the Local People’s Congress and Local People’s Governments of China. The law was first adopted in 1979 and revised in 1995. “As no report or bill was rejected by People’s Congress delegates before, no consideration has ever been given to what to do if a report is voted down.
Does it matter little whether the court report was vetoed or not, since there is a lack of liability provisions? Professor Han voiced his own view, “It should not be understood in this way. The liability principles set out in the Constitution may compensate in this respect.”
Although no legal liability can apply in the case of Shenyang, according to him, the court president should at least assume political and moral responsibility, and the local People’s Congress should exercise the right of recall.
Are there any remedies in legal procedures for the vetoed report to be adopted again? Han stressed that the adoption of a court report by the People’s Congress is a general appraisal of the court sector’s performance in the previous year.
That the Shenyang municipal court report was rejected reflects public dissatisfaction with the work of local courts. “But after a period of time, if the courts work to the people’s satisfaction, the report may be adopted at the next meeting of local People’s Congress,” he added.