Top judges 'must not be above law'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 April, 2004, 12:00am

Head of Supreme People's Court says judicial officials with the most power are the easiest to corrupt

Senior court officials on the mainland are prone to corruption and should be kept under close supervision, the president of the Supreme People's Court says.

Speaking at an anti-corruption conference that ended yesterday in Beijing, Xiao Yang said high-ranking court officials should avoid temptation and be held responsible for anti-corruption efforts in their courts.

'Court leaders are the easiest to corrupt due to the judicial power and administrative management power in their hands,' Mr Xiao said. 'Therefore they should be the main targets of supervision.'

Earlier in the meeting, Mr Xiao called on court officials to concentrate on ensuring 'accuracy in verdicts' and not to corrupt themselves or their subordinate judges.

Xinhua said 52 judges faced criminal charges last year for alleged abuse of power. 'An official in charge of the Supreme People's Court said the struggle against corruption within the judiciary was relatively difficult last year,' the news agency said. 'Cases of local courts in some areas breaking the laws and regulations still happened frequently.'

China Daily reported that Mr Xiao had admitted that courts at grassroots level were most problematic and said they needed 'immediate action'.

He Yong, a deputy secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission of the Communist Party, told the conference that judicial corruption needed to be tackled at its roots and the 'handful of black sheep' in the profession must be weeded out. The commission is the party's top anti-corruption body.

Li Yucheng, another member of the commission, said court leaders should bar their spouses, children and aides from interfering in trials and verdict enforcement.

In a move to encourage public supervision, the Supreme People's Court yesterday published on its website the telephone numbers of provincial and municipal higher people's courts.

Judicial corruption was hotly debated at the meeting of the National People's Congress last month. Some delegates showed disapproval by voting against Mr Xiao's annual work report.

Last month, the Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Justice announced the introduction of a new code of conduct aimed at curbing judicial corruption.

The code is expected to spell out guidelines such as forbidding judges from contacting lawyers in cases they preside over. Barring such contact is aimed at removing opportunities for lawyers to offer bribes in exchange for favourable verdicts or lenient sentences.

State media yesterday reported two cases of judicial corruption. In Hubei, two former vice-presidents of Wuhan Intermediate People's Court - Ke Changxin and Hu Changlong - were sentenced to 13 years and 6? years imprisonment respectively for taking bribes.

Ma Sheng, a former presiding judge of Hainan Higher People's Court, was sentenced on Wednesday to 12 years for bribery.