Laws on Paper vs. Law in Practice

A State Council white paper on China’s legal system raised eyebrows last month by proclaiming the country’s “comparatively complete legal system to protect human rights”. Stanley Lubman looks at topics that received less attention in the document, including lack of judicial independence and consistent enforcement. From China Real Time Report:

One message that is conspicuously muted is the need to resist interference with the independence of decision-making by the courts and procuracy. The white paper states that the courts and procuracy exercise their power “independently,” which is flatly not the case.

An editorial published in the state-run China Daily after the white paper was issued shares the celebratory tone of the document, but adds a note of caution:

….just as the white paper has observed, having laws alone does not mean rule of law. More needs to be done in order to add teeth to our laws. The judiciary must be divested from departmental and local interests. And those in positions of power, no matter institutions or individuals, must set the right example.

None other than Wen Jiabao, China’s Premier, has called for an independent judiciary in stronger language than is used in the latest document. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Geneva in September of this year, Premier Wen said: “We need to uphold judicial justice. Procuratorial and judicial authorities should keep their due independence and be free from interference by any administrative organ, social group or individual.”

See also Lubman’s ‘A Glimpse into Chinese Law-Making’, via CDT.