New courts chief a veteran in battle against corruption

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am

Newly appointed Supreme People's Court Chief Justice Wang Shengjun has worked for more than two decades in the legal system but remains a mysterious figure to both the public and many of his court and procuratorate colleagues.

Born in 1926, Mr Wang began his career in his home province of Anhui after leaving Hefei Normal University with a degree in history.

Joining the Communist Party in 1972, he worked his way up from farm worker to county cadre and finally secretary general of Anhui's political and legal committee in 1985.

In 1988 he took the reins of Anhui's public security bureau and five years later was appointed deputy secretary of the central political and legal committee, the highest body overseeing legal systems. He was made chief secretary in 1998.

He became a committee member of the Central Disciplinary Committee, the party's powerful corruption watchdog, in 1997, and deputy director of the Central Public Order Overall Management Committee in 2003.

With experience in these various party supervisory bodies, Mr Wang is a veteran in the battle against corruption and will be well placed to deal a heavy blow to judicial corruption, considered by many the biggest challenge to the court system.

But his long involvement in the co-ordination and policymaking party bodies lends an air of mystery.

A random sampling of a dozen Supreme Court judges and Supreme Procuratorate prosecutors revealed that most knew only two things about Mr Wang - that he was head of the political and legal committee, and was 'very experienced'.

'We never came across each other at work,' one judge said. 'We only learned about him from his online CV. He appears experienced and familiar with the law.'

Another prosecutor said he had met the new court chief once in the early 1990s, when he and his superior went to Anhui to discuss a case that Mr Wang was in charge of.

'He is not a man of many words but appears to be a shrewd thinker, and everything he says comes right to the point,' the prosecutor said.

In a 2006 interview with China Today Forum, Mr Wang showed a tough yet conservative stance on safeguarding the rule of law, placing emphasis on education while warning against certain western influences.

'There are people who blindly worship western legal thought and systems, suggesting we copy their rule of law. There are people who use the western principles of 'division of power' and 'political neutrality' to criticise our judicial system ... to eliminate the negative impact of this wrong thinking on our judicial officials we must continue with the leading position of Marxism in our legal and political work,' Mr Wang said.

But in 2005, he urged judicial departments to adopt a positive attitude towards media supervision and negative reporting.

'As long as negative reporting is well intentioned and good for our improvement, we should accept it humbly and bear responsibility.'