Imposing the law

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, March 11, 2011
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The "socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics" the country promised to set up by 2010 has now officially been established.

National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo's report to the current session of the national legislature called this "an important milestone".

And it is. In a country where, for thousands of years, leader preference dictated the making and application of laws, formulating a complete set of laws up to contemporary jurisprudence standards is nothing short of revolutionary.

The NPC and its Standing Committee are worth every word of praise they have received for achieving this. From the making of the current Constitution in 1982, and the four subsequent amendments, to the drafting, review and revision of thousands of other legislative works ever since, people's congresses across the country have laid the groundwork for the country's aspiration to introduce the rule of law.

Wu reiterated in his report his and other leaders' earlier statement that this country would not copy Western models of democracy. The Western concept and practice of checks and balances will not be adopted here, he said. Instead, his report featured a heavy emphasis on tailoring Chinese laws based on the country's own conditions.

Political connotations aside, the accent on national conditions is a legitimate one that makes "Chinese characteristics" a matter of course - no two countries have a completely identical set of laws, and all the differences can be portrayed as "characteristics". That is why to most of us at least, directly implanting foreign laws is simply impossible.

But as Wu acknowledged, that does not mean there is nothing we can learn and borrow from overseas. Besides the contemporary jurisprudential ideas that have benefited our legislators in formulating our own laws, there is plenty to learn about how to make our laws work.

Since our legislature has come up with a rather complete legal framework that covers all aspect of society's daily operation, there is greater potential for it to spare more time and energy on its role as the ultimate supervisor of law implementation.

Having the right laws is one thing. Making sure the laws are applied properly is quite another. With thousands of laws in place, people's congresses at national and local levels can now concentrate more on implementation.

Playing the role of watchdog well would not only boost public confidence in the legislators themselves, but also help shore up our judiciary's credibility problems. Even if housecleaning is something that should and could be done mainly by the law enforcement agencies themselves, legislatures can do a lot to guarantee that our courts and justices have more independence.

This may be tricky. But there has to be sophisticated new reforms to make sure the laws that look and sound good are not easily compromised in application.

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