I. Judicial System and Reform Process
I. Judicial System and Reform Process
The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 ushered in a new era for the building of China's judicial system. The Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which functioned as a provisional Constitution, and the Organic Law of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, both promulgated in September 1949, laid the cornerstone for legal construction in New China. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China promulgated in 1954, the Organic Law of the People's Courts of the People's Republic of China, the Organic Law of the People's Procuratorates of the People's Republic of China among other laws and regulations, defined the organic system and basic functions of the people's courts and procuratorates, established the systems of collegiate panels, defense, public trial, people's jurors, legal supervision, civil mediation, putting into place the basic framework of China's judicial system.
Toward the end of 1950s, especially during the ten-year tumultuous "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), China's judicial system suffered severe damage. Since the reform and opening-up policies were introduced in 1978, China, after summing up its historical experience, established the fundamental policy of promoting socialist democracy and improving socialist legal construction, restored and rebuilt the judicial system, and formulated and amended a range of fundamental laws. In the 1990s, China established the fundamental principle of governing the country in accordance with the law, and quickened the step to build China into a socialist country under the rule of law. During the process of promoting social progress, democracy and the rule of law, China's judicial system is continuously improving and developing.
1. Basic Characteristics of China's Judicial System
China is a socialist country with a people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. The people's congress system is the organic form of its state power. China's state system and system of government decide that its judicial power comes from the people, belongs to the people and serves the people. The people's courts and the people's procuratorates are created by the people's congresses at various levels, to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised.
The people's court is the basic judicial organ in China. The state has set up the Supreme People's Court, local people's courts at different levels and special people's courts such as military courts. They adjudicate civil, criminal and administrative cases in accordance with the law, and carry out law enforcement activities including the execution of civil and administrative cases and state compensation. The Supreme People's Court supervises the judicial work of all local people's courts and special people's courts. The people's court at a higher level supervises the judicial work of the people's court at the next lower level. In litigious activities, China adopts the systems of public trial, collegiate panels, challenge, people's jurors, defense, and judgment of the second instance as final, among others.
The people's procuratorate is the procuratorial organ in China. The state has set up the Supreme People's Procuratorate, local people's procuratorates at different levels and special people's procuratorates such as military procuratorates. The Supreme People's Procuratorate directs the work of local people's procuratorates at different levels and special people's procuratorates. A people's procuratorate at a higher level directs the work of a people's procuratorate at the next level below it. The people's procuratorate exercises legal supervision over criminal, civil and administrative litigations in accordance with the law.
The people's court and the people's procuratorate exercise their adjudicative power and procuratorial power independently and impartially in accordance with the law. Their exercise of power is subject to the supervision of the National People's Congress, the Chinese People' s Political Consultative Conference and the general public.
The people's courts, the people's procuratorates and the organs of public security handle criminal cases according to their respective functions, and collaborate with and check each other, so as to ensure the accurate and efficient implementation of law. The organs of public security take charge of the investigation, detention, arrest and pretrial in criminal cases; the people's procuratorates conduct procuratorial work, approve proposals for arrest, investigate cases directly accepted by them, and initiate public prosecution; and the people's courts are responsible for conducting trials.
2. Objectives, Principles and Process of China's Judicial Reform
Since the introduction of the reform and opening-up policies, China has witnessed rapid economic and social development, and the public's awareness of the importance of the rule of law has been remarkably enhanced. Due to the profound changes in the judicial environment, judicial work in China is facing new situations and problems. The defects and rigidity in China's current judicial system and its work mechanism are becoming increasingly prominent, and they need to be improved gradually through reform.
The fundamental objectives of China's judicial reform are to ensure that the people's courts and people's procuratorates exercise adjudicative power and procuratorial power fairly and independently; to establish an impartial, efficient and authoritative socialist judicial system; and to provide solid and reliable judicial guarantee for safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the people, social equity and justice, and lasting national stability.
China carries out judicial reform based on its national conditions. It draws on the sound practices of other countries but does not blindly copy them; it keeps pace with the times but does not advance rashly and blindly. It sticks to the line of relying on the people, strives to meet their expectations, tackles problems of particular concern to the people, and subjects itself to their supervision and examination, so as to ensure the reform is for the people, relies on the people and benefits the people. It pushes forward the reform in accordance with the law, abiding by the Constitution and other laws and regulations, while those measures that contravene the laws in force should only be implemented after the laws are revised. It adheres to the principle of overall planning and coordination, comprehensive designing, and proceeding in an orderly and gradual way.
As early as in the 1980s, China started reforms in court trials and ensuring professionalism in judicature, focusing on enhancing the function of court trials, expanding the openness of trials, improving attorney defense functions, and training professional judges and procurators.
In 2004, China launched large-scale judicial reforms based on overall planning, deployment and implementation. Starting with issues that caused complaints from the public and the key links that hamper judicial justice, according to the demands of promoting judicial impartiality and strict enforcement of the law, and proceeding from the regular pattern and characteristics of judicial practice, China improved the structure of its judicial organs, division of judicial functions and system of judicial management, to establish a judicial system featuring clearly defined power and responsibilities, mutual collaboration and restraint, and highly efficient operation. Thereby, China's judicial reform entered a phase of overall planning and advancing in an orderly way.
Since 2008, China has initiated a new round of judicial reform, and entered a stage of deepening in key areas and overall advancement. The reform proceeds from the demands of the public for justice, with safeguarding the people's common interests as its fundamental task, promoting social harmony as the main principle and strengthening supervision and restraint of power as priority. China aims to tackle problems in the key links that hamper judicial justice and restrain judicial capability, remove existing barriers in the institutional setup and operational mechanism as well as provision of legal guarantee, and put forward the specific tasks for judicial reform in four aspects - optimizing the allocation of judicial functions and power, implementing the policy of balancing leniency and severity, building up the ranks of judicial workers, and ensuring judicial funding. Currently, the tasks of this round of judicial reform have been basically completed, as relevant laws have been amended and improved. As China is making continuous progress in economic and social development, its judicial reform is bound to advance further.