Chief justice vows to reform courts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 12:00am

The mainland's chief justice has vowed to step up judicial reform and strengthen independence in the mainland's court system.

Xiao Yang , president of the Supreme People's Court, said judicial independence was not constrained by the political system.

'I have never suffered intervention by any political force in my work,' Mr Xiao said in a speech at Hong Kong's City University.

Mr Xiao's university visit was marred by an embarrassing moment, in which a couple from Fujian province tried to petition him.

A woman knelt before him on the podium before she and her husband were removed by security guards.

The couple claimed they had been wronged in a business dispute and had exhausted all channels of appeal over a course of six years.

Mr Xiao watched the couple being removed and did not respond to their entreaties.

The top judge said that through reform, the mainland's judicial system would be better equipped with independent rights and be free of any interference from administrative bodies, social groups and individuals.

Observers in the legal sector have called for a strengthening of judicial independence in courts at all levels and the elimination of direct and indirect intervention by the Communist Party in the day-to-day workings of the judiciary.

Mr Xiao said the country's constitution guaranteed the independent judicial rights of courts and the prosecutor's office.

But he acknowledged the judicial system was far from perfect.

China still needed to strengthen local courts, where the standard of professionalism was modest, and corruption scandals needed to be brought under better control.

Local protectionism also posed a threat to the development of an independent and fair system.

Observers say local courts cannot exercise their judicial powers independently in criminal cases with political overtones, or in civil cases involving a local government's business interests.

Local governments can control and manage judges and the budgets of local courts, making them more susceptible to defending local interests.