'No' votes for top judicial reports still highest but fewer than before
Ng Tze-Wei and Fanny W.Y. Fung in Beijing
The annual reports of the country's top court and procuratorate continued to receive the lowest approval rating among all the reports scrutinised by the National People's Congress this year - although the ratings are higher than in recent years.
The ratings suggest that the public is still angry at the poor quality of judicial work, seeing it as a major cause of social injustice and widespread corruption despite years of high-profile judicial reform.
A total of 607 of 2,909 NPC deputies voted no or abstained on the Supreme People's Court's annual work report yesterday, and 558 did the same on the Supreme People's Procuratorate's annual work report.
By comparison, Premier Wen Jiabao's work report received 61 'no' votes or abstentions. Last year there were 711 'no' or abstention votes for the court's report and 667 for the procuratorate's report.
Deputies were reluctant to discuss their votes yesterday, but several pointed to the shortage of judges, poor enforcement of judgments and the lack of independent funding for the courts as major problems.
A Supreme Court judge who attended the voting said the vote was not so much directed at this year's report, but more reflected the general sentiment of the deputies and people towards the courts and their high expectations of the two bodies.
'This year we have the arrest of our deputy top judge [Huang Songyou]. This must have left a strong negative impression on the deputies,' said the judge, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hong Kong deputy Priscilla Lau Pui-king said she had voted against the reports in the past years, but voted for them yesterday.
'This year's reports suggested solutions to procedural and structural problems. I can see they have paid particular attention to the training of judicial officers,' Lau said.
Professor Hu Xingdou of the Beijing Institute of Technology, a mainland political commentator, said the higher rates of approval were due to efforts in addressing high-profile concerns of the public last year - such as arrests of corrupt judges and cleaning up of abuse in detention centres. In many controversial cases, the courts also handed out judgments along the lines of public opinion, such as in the case of Hubei hotel masseuse Deng Yujiao , who stabbed to death a government official who had tried to rape her.
However, Hu said many fundamental areas in judicial work had actually regressed.
'For example, lawyers are now asked to work according to political goals [such as in the case of lawyer Li Zhuang, convicted of fabricating evidence for a client in Chongqing ], and law firms are now required to set up party secretariats,' Hu said. 'These are things the public or the deputies do not see immediately.'