New Round of Judicial Reform

Caijing reporter Qin Xudong writes on the urgent need for legal reform in China and the problems ahead.

But certain protocol common in developed court systems might be in store. A subtle re-orientation can be sensed in the details of the new reforms. For example, former reforms focused on the professionalism of judges by replacing uniforms suggestive of autocratic authority with more modern robes. This time, the emphasis is on “popularization of law” and “democratization of law,” reminding judges to not forget the “mass route.”

The CPC’s opinion stresses the concepts of “service” and flexibility, while glossing over other common legal concepts like stability and predictability. Examples of this can be seen in the reaction of both the courts and the procuratorates to China’s sweeping economic downturn. The People’s Supreme Court has ordered cautious enforcement of the law when handling indebted enterprises that still have a promising future. In Guangdong Province, where the slowdown has taken some of its harshest tolls, the local procuratorate went so far as to encourage benevolent neglect for accused corporate leaders if their crimes were not severe.

These examples also tie into the heavy stress placed on the courts’ mediation mechanism, i.e., “executing laws according to local characteristics rather than universal rules of fairness and equality.”

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