Independent courts a must, says expert

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2007, 12:00am

Recent reshuffles of provincial judges have not solved the deep-rooted problems plaguing the judicial system because the judiciary is still not independent, a leading legal scholar believes.

However, the changes could help raise standards because the new appointees were drawn from the ranks of those who received formal legal training after 1978 - when law schools reopened after the Cultural Revolution - Cai Dingjian , of the China University of Politics and Law, said yesterday.

The Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper reported on Monday that the provincial judges and prosecutors recently transferred and promoted were mainly born after 1950, and that the choice of these younger candidates was aimed at curbing corruption in the mainland's legal system.

The role of the law in protecting the ruling Communist Party was emphasised in a speech by President Hu Jintao to a seminar on law and order yesterday in Beijing. Mr Hu stressed that the key priorities of law and order were to 'steadfastly uphold the party's ruling position, safeguard the country, protect people's interests and maintain social stability'.

Professor Cai conceded that the transfers could help prevent judges developing close ties with local vested interests. But he said: 'It still fails to tackle the problem of corruption and the fact that judges are controlled by provincial governments.

'For example, the president of the Hunan Provincial Higher People's Court is under the leadership of the Hunan party secretary.

'The only way to solve the problems is to reform the judicial system so that judicial independence can be achieved.'

Professor Cai said that while the professional training the new appointees had received could help raise standards, he disapproved strongly of official and media rhetoric about the benefits of appointing young candidates for government posts, because experience counted for a lot in some spheres, such as the law.

The Ta Kung Pao report noted that the new president of the Chongqing Municipal Higher People's Court, Qing Feng, who was formerly the chief judge of the Supreme People's Court's fourth civil division, is only 43 years old.

Among those being transferred is Kang Weimin, who heads the Jiangxi Provincial Higher People's Court and will serve in the same role in Hunan.

Provincial prosecution offices are also getting a shake-up. For example, Cui Wei , the chief prosecutor in Shanxi , is swapping posts with his counterpart in Anhui .

The Ta Kung Pao report noted that most of those involved were graduates of the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing; analysts attributed this to the fact the university was the first to restore its law faculty in 1978 when the mainland's opening up began.

The changes will take effect next year when local people's congresses meet.