PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Daniel Fung, who made his debut as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference last month, describes the development of the rule of law as the 'fifth modernisation' for China.

'Modernisations in agriculture, industry, the military, as well as science and technology - the Four Modernisations espoused by the Chinese leadership since the late 1970s - are relatively easy. But development of the rule of law is the most gigantic task,' he said.

Mr Fung, who has had dealings with lawyers on the mainland over the past few years, said the mainland had made remarkable progress in passing legislation but there were problems with lax enforcement of laws and court verdicts.

'Worse, there is rather serious protectionism in enforcement of law in China, particularly in inland provinces,' he said.

He also pinpointed the relatively poor quality of judges as an obstacle to development of the rule of law in China.

'Nearly all judges were sent to rural areas to receive 're-education', within the first few years of the Cultural Revolution, which broke out in 1966, and officers from the People's Liberation Army took over the courts starting in 1968,' he said.

'Mainland judges wore army uniforms until two or three years ago.'

Mr Fung said the quality of senior judges had improved over the past few years, citing the fact that two vice-presidents of the Supreme People's Court graduated from law schools of Harvard and Yale universities.

However, the poor quality of judges and law enforcement officials at the grassroots level was still a primary source of complaints on the mainland.

At the National People's Congress meeting last month, 19 per cent, or 545 delegates, voted against the procuratorate's work report. Another 9 per cent, or 264 delegates, abstained.

A total of 398 delegates, or 13 per cent, voted against the Supreme People's Court report, with another 7 per cent, or 203 delegates, abstaining.

Some mainland deputies said the results indicated that many delegates remained dissatisfied with the slow pace at which the quality of judges at grassroots level was being raised.

But Mr Fung is not an armchair critic. In 1999, in collaboration with the Supreme People's Court, he started building a database of all cases and judgments on the mainland. The project is expected to be completed next year.