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Introducing Law into Governance
Lawyers in China have elevated their position among the public and are starting to play an increasingly important role in government.

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that there are currently more than 20,000 law experts and lawyers who serve as consultants to governments at different levels.

They have assisted in local reform measures, urban planning and construction, and major projects.

"More and more officials have started to get legal advice before making a decision on major issues concerning economic and social development," said the Minister of Justice Zhang Fusen at a national televised conference yesterday.

"They now rely more heavily on the law in the management of social and economic affairs."

Boosting the role that the law plays in the government is one of the primary focuses of China's on-going five-year project to popularize knowledge of law among the public.

The action is of significance to China's endeavor to create a rule-of-law country, as the government has traditionally relied on administrative measures.

"We need to shift from the past model on administrative measures, to the one based on law, and in that way, promote the rule of law in the country," said Zhang.

Apart from providing legal advice, law experts have also been active in training the nation's governmental officials on how laws work.

More than 190,000 officials above the mid-level rank have received law training between 1996 and 2000, and the figure is expected to rise in the next four years.

"The law education of officials in past years has made them realize the important role of law in handling social, economic and cultural issues," said Zhao Shiju, deputy secretary of the North China's Hebei provincial committee of the Communist Party of China.

Zhang, in yesterday's address, said that knowledge of law is imperative now that the government is working to build an orderly market and a credit system, as well as meet the challenges arising from China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

A May circular issued jointly by the Ministry of Justice and the Communist Party of China Central Committee urged the study of law among officials, with particular emphasis on the Constitution, economic laws and regulations, and laws and regulations related to China's status as a WTO member.

Competence in law knowledge will also be included as a criterion for promotions.

(China Daily June 6, 2002)

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