China's ruling party pushes for better judiciary

AP News
Posted: Oct 23, 2014 7:46 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communist Party said it will take steps to improve judicial independence and put checks on political interference in the courts, as its Central Committee concluded its annual meeting on Thursday.

A communique, released after the conclave ended in Beijing, pledges support for ruling the country in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

The document provides a guiding policy framework for the party-led government in the upcoming year, which will draw up detailed measures to execute the orders.

Legal scholars and political analysts say the communique has no clear indication for implementing measures to check the power of party officials at the highest levels, but that some proposals would boost judicial independence and accountability at lower levels.

"There is only the rhetoric commitment with no mechanism to make constitutional rulings," said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "But there are positive changes in some practices."

Legal experts should be summoned to review major policies in the making process, files should kept to record any involvement by party officials in legal matters, courts should be removed from the jurisdiction of local officials to boost independence, and judges should be chosen from legal professionals, the communique said.

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Xie Youping, a legal scholar at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, said some of the measures are already being phased in, but that keeping files on officials who have intervened in legal matters is a new proposal.

"It will make officials more cautious, and it is a measure to safeguard judicial independence," Xie said.