A senior judge said the idea of the rule of law has taken root in Chinese society.
During a panel discussion held as part of the ongoing 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Vice-President of the Supreme People's Court Cao Jianming noted that China's legislative efforts in the past 13 years, in particular the past five years, have provided laws to guide people's conduct in the political, economic and social fields.
According to a report from the China News Service, Cao also noted that government officials have enhanced their legal awareness, and practices such as public hearings have increased the transparency of government departments.
Cao said that judicial reform, with the goals of fairness and justice, has been forging ahead. He added that judicial departments are playing an increasingly important role in China and have become a focus of the public.
In his keynote speech last Friday at the opening session of the Party's national congress, General Secretary Jiang Zemin included the development of socialist democracy and the legal system and the strategy of the rule of law as goals on the way to building a well-off society.
China's legal system, seriously undermined during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), was restored in the late 1970s, and its development has been accelerated in recent years.
The strategy of "the rule of law" was written into the Constitution in its latest amendment in 1999. The move was hailed by the Minister of Justice Zhang Fusen as "an important milestone in China's history of the legal system."
Over the past 13 years, the National People's Congress and its standing committee have formulated more than 100 laws. The laws in effect in China now amount to more than 200, and there are also more than 600 administrative rules.
"The legislative goal of setting up a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics by 2010 has been gradually turning into reality," said Zhang at the panel discussion during the CPC national congress.
Zhang also noted that, with its criminal, civil and administrative litigation systems, China is improving its judicial system and steadily pushing ahead with its reform.
The legal profession, which includes lawyers and judges, now enjoys high prestige in China and law schools are gaining popularity among young students.
China now boasts 120,000 lawyers and more than 10,000 law firms. Despite the improvements made over the years, China's lawyers are still busy honing their skills to face new challenges since the nation became a member of the World Trade Organization and pledged to further open up its legal services market.
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to empower the general public with knowledge about the law.
China has so far carried out three five-year campaigns for the popularization of legal knowledge. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that more than 800 million people have benefited from the campaigns.
(China Daily November 13, 2002)