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New Laws Promise Justice
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The session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee which concluded yesterday was a productive one.

In just five days, the committee reviewed and passed two draft laws and revised two more.

The anti-money-laundering law plugs a conspicuous loophole in the nation's fight against corruption and cross-border financial crime.

The revised law on supervision of the banking sector should close several legal loopholes in the booming yet under-regulated industry.

The law on farmers' specialized cooperatives also fills a gap, legislating for an important new form of partnership in rural communities.

The widely anticipated new version of the organic law for people's courts, on the other hand, finalizes the legal procedure for the Supreme People's Court to take back the power to approve death penalties.

In order to facilitate a crackdown on severe criminal offences such as murder, rape and arson, the Supreme Court authorized local high courts to issue death sentences in the early 1980s. While enhancing the deterrent potential of capital punishment, the delegated authority has proved vulnerable to abuse.

Recalling that authority places the application of death sentences under additional scrutiny. It is a practical move, helping the judiciary honour its declared commitment to procedural justice.

But the legislators' five-day gathering deserves our attention not only because of the law-making aspects.

Chief Justice Xiao Yang's and Chief Procurator Jia Chunwang's reports on the progress of judicial reform in their respective fields bear testimony to the work the judiciary needs to do to live up to public expectations for justice.

Both Xiao and Jia admitted that there were black sheep in their ranks, and disregard for procedure as well as behind-the-scenes maneuvers, they said, are behind much injustice and public dissatisfaction.

In fairness to the judiciary, courts and procuratorates nationwide have tried hard to correct and improve themselves since the central leadership called in May 2005 for further regulation of law-enforcement to promote justice.

Responding to issues of public discontent, both have made efforts to enhance self-regulation, and installed mechanisms to allow greater transparency and protect suspects' rights.

We all have witnessed the inspiring awareness of civil rights and procedural justice our courts and procuratorates have displayed recently. The adoption of the assumption of innocence is nothing short of a revolutionary change in judicial philosophy.

Self-discipline on the part of judicial workers is essential for justice to be done. But transparency works better as an antidote to violations.

Chief Justice Xiao's plan to make the whole process of court proceedings in civil and commercial litigations public is likely to be generously rewarded in this regard.

Plans to enable information-sharing between the Supreme Court and local high courts about public complaints may also prove a worthy experiment.

(China Daily November 1, 2006)

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